Legacy Award

The Legacy Award is awarded annually to an individual or group who has shown a dedication, commitment, and contribution to the mission of Centralia College.

2024 Legacy Award

Larry McGeeLarry McGee’s father was an extremely talented machinist who worked on classified nuclear projects for the government. His grandfather was an engineer who ran an engine shop for a prominent railroad. It was no surprise then when Larry McGee finished high school and pursued engineering as a career. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering in 1969 and his master’s degree in Business Administration in 1976. He was talented, hard working, and motivated – just what employers needed.

He had great success. He worked 24 years at PPG Industries in engineering and plant management. He launched multiple locations for the international glass, chemical, and coating manufacturer, transforming green fields to fully operational manufacturing facilities in less than a year. He understood deadlines, managing large projects, and bringing out the best in people. He could keep large projects on track and everyone moving in the same direction.

After PPG, he worked two years at STR Corporation, an aerospace and defense company, in strategic consulting and 11 years at IBM in industrial consulting and sales. By that time, McGee was ready to retire. He had been living locally since 1985. He came to Lewis County with PPG with the intent to start a glass manufacturing site and move back to Pittsburgh. The plant was closed and PPG abandoned the glass business, but McGee liked the community and settled in.

Throughout his adult life, while engaged in a demanding career, McGee had been active in his community. That was his mother’s influence. She was a dedicated community volunteer. She was head of several PTAs and was the state treasurer for a women’s philanthropic organization. She was a leader and tireless volunteer. McGee watched and learned.

“I was 29 years old living in Carlisle, Penn.,” he recalled of his first civic position. “I was on the team that had built the biggest glass plant in the world and I was chair of the planning commission. I’ve been involved with boards since then. A lot of people may think it’s crazy, but I’ve always been active in my community. It’s important to me.”

McGee was a charter member of Twin Cities Rotary. He is a two-time Rotarian of the Year and served seven years as the finance chair for Rotary District 5020 (the largest in the western hemisphere). He was on the boards for Pope’s Place and the Chamber of Commerce, and currently serves on the Centralia Foundation.

In 2011, McGee was the executive director of the Chehalis Renaissance Team (now Experience Chehalis). He had a list of projects with 85 items and was ticking them off when Centralia College President Jim Walton (retired) called him out of the blue.

“I had no idea what he wanted, but I went to meet him anyway,” McGee said. “He wanted me to start a bachelor’s degree program in business. I had never worked on a college campus before. I knew nothing about it and I initially turned him down, but he didn’t give up. He asked me to go to Pasco to talk to some people out there first before he would accept my no.”

In Pasco, McGee met with Deborah Meadows, a dean at Columbia Basic College.

“She had been in higher education for 34 years. She’d done so much for students,” he said. “She said that starting a bachelor’s program there was the most important thing she’d done in her life. That hit me. She offered me a ton of support and I was convinced. I told Jim I would do it.”

McGee started working on proposals and plans in Thanksgiving 2011. Walton wanted the first students to start classes in September 2012, so McGee had been submitting proposals to the state and recruiting students and faculty with his eyes on a September start. Two weeks after starting at Centralia College, the proposal was rejected by the state.  Among other concerns the state questioned a leader who had not worked on a campus.

“I gave Jim (Walton) the opportunity to fire me,” McGee said. “But he said no, we’re going to make this work.”

McGee kept at it, submitting new proposals and working with Walton and other college staff to polish their proposal and earn state approval. Then, it went to the college’s accrediting body. By September 2012, McGee had 28 students ready to start classes. He had new faculty hired. He had education plans ready and courses approved - but no approval from the Department of Education . Without that, they were sunk.

“The official approval came 10 days before the start of classes,” McGee said. “It was crazy.”

McGee intended to stay at Centralia College for 18 months, long enough to get the bachelor’s degree in Applied Management off the ground. He was asked to stay a bit longer and to help launch the college’s second bachelor’s degree in Diesel Technology.

“I stayed for two and a half years total,” he said. “It was the best time of my working life. I loved my time at the college.”

Centralia College now has five bachelor’s degrees and McGee has moved on to other projects. He’s a founding member and current chair for the new Discover! Children’s Museum, which has just broken ground in downtown Centralia. He’s also on the board for the United Learning Center, the multi-agency complex that will be home to the new children’s museum. McGee is as busy as ever, but Centralia College always has a soft spot in his heart.

“The faculty here is not driven by research and research grants,” he said. “They’re here to educate students. They show a great deal of concern for the students. A lot of students have tough situations and there’s a great deal of care here.. The faculty, the president, it’s not about ego. It’s about the college and the students.”

McGee is the second recipient of the Legacy Award from the Centralia College Foundation. The award honors his service to the college. He will be recognized June 20 at the Foundation Night of Celebration at Centralia College. Get tickets online now.

2023 Legacy Award

Dave Blanchard

The first recipient of the Centralia College Foundation’s new Legacy Award is alumnus Dave Blanchard, a decorated Vietnam veteran and educator. Blanchard passed away on Sept. 29, 2022, and was a lifetime supporter of Centralia College and its students.

Blanchard was born and raised in Centralia. He was a star athlete at Centralia High School, where he was elected president of the student body in 1960-61, a position his father held 25 years earlier. In 1963, he graduated from Centralia College, where he was also elected student body president.

After graduation, he received a Congressional appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He graduated in 1967 with a degree in engineering and accepted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army. In 1968, he was deployed to Vietnam, where he earned two Purple Hearts (twice wounded in combat), two Bronze Stars for heroism and acts of valor in armed combat, and a Valorous Unit Award. 

Dave Blanchard in VietnamAfter retirement from active Army service, Blanchard earned his doctorate and served as the dean of graduate students at Hofstra University in New York. Later, he taught as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University. Though he never lived in Centralia again, he maintained tight connections to the community and established and supported a scholarship at Centralia College in the name of the Class of 1963. 

Before his death, Blanchard wrote about the impact CC had on his life.

“Centralia is one of the major highlights of my life and I know for a fact that if I had not attended this great community college, I would not have made it through my first year at West Point,” he wrote in 2009. “In my long career, both in the military and in higher education, when the opportunity arose, I firmly stated that my two-year college education prepared me for the rest of my life.”

Blanchard’s contributions was formally recognized at the Centralia College Foundation’s Night of Celebration on June 15, 2023.

Legacy Award Nominations

The Centralia College Foundation is currently seeking nominations for its Legacy Award. It is awarded annually to an individual or group who has shown dedication, commitment, and contribution to the mission of Centralia College. The recipients are not required to be Centralia College alumni and the Legacy Award may be given posthumously.


Centralia College Foundation
600 Centralia College Blvd
Centralia, WA 98531-4099