Centralia College Foundation Awards

Every year, the Centralia College Foundation honors alumni, faculty, and staff who make a difference for Centralia College students.

watterson family2021 Distinguished Alumni

For the first time in award history, a family has been named the recipient of the annual Distinguished Alumni Award from the Centralia College Foundation. All four Watterson siblings – Ed, Bill, Marilyn, and Jim – attended Centralia College and have gone on to build strong careers and a legacy of service and community.

“I think because of the pandemic of 2020, I have been challenged to think more locally,” said John Klumper, vice president of the CC Foundation and a member of the Distinguished Alumni selection committee. “The Watterson family exemplifies exactly how I’m thinking. They’re very much into family and community, and doing great things for others. I am very excited for the Watterson family to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award this year.”

Clarence and Doris Watterson raised their four children on a dairy farm in the Salzer Valley in Centralia. Doris especially instilled in her children the importance of education, and all four children graduated from Centralia High School and attended Centralia College.

The children all worked on the dairy as kids and paid their way through college. The three boys ended up in construction. Ed Watterson (CC Class of 1955) has been a superintendent at Schwiesow Construction since 1979 and had his hands on much of the Centralia College campus, heading the construction of the Kirk Library, Aadland Esplanade, clocktower, Washington Hall, Technology Building, and Walton Science Center. Bill Watterson (CC Class of 1961) was a basketball standout, who went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and start one of the largest construction companies in Alaska, Watterson Construction. Jim Watterson (CC Class of 1973) earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington and worked all over the west before joining Watterson Construction in 1989. He moved to Alaska in 2006 and is now company president.

Marilyn Watterson Weinstein broke ground in a different way. After graduating from Centralia College in 1963, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from Washington State University and went on to be a pioneer in business education, teaching computers and eventually designing and implementing custom software systems, primarily for companies in the biomedical field.

As individuals, each of the Watterson children has exemplified the Trailblazer spirit through hard work, commitment to service and community, grit, and dedication to family. As a family, they really stand out.

“The Watterson family of alumni are uniquely special among Centralia College families due to their varied significant contributions individually to their professions and communities in such a widespread way throughout the U.S. Yet, as a group, they still choose to recognize and remember their roots at Centralia College, said Renee Lawson, who has served on the selection committee for eight of the last 13 years. “The family establishing an endowed scholarship in memory of their parents, Clarence and Doris Watterson, is a heartwarming example of that.”

The Wattersons will be honored as individuals throughout the year in the Centralia College Foundation’s quarterly Blazer Bulletin magazine and will be honored as a family as part of the 2021 commencement celebration.

2021 Exceptional Faculty Awards 

The Centralia College Foundation has selected Teneal Gustafson and Michelle Harris to receive the 2021 Exceptional Faculty Awards. They were chosen for their commitment to and excellence in their subject areas, and participation in campus activities.

teneal gustafsonTeneal Gustafson

Teneal Gustafson has been a nurse for 23 years. While working in a pediatric intensive care unit, she was assigned a student nurse. She said she found the experience so rewarding, she moved into teaching six years ago.

“When I decided to teach, I knew right away I wanted to teach here,” she said. “This is my alma mater. My degree from Centralia College changed my life- I wanted to give something back.”

All classes are taught by a team of instructors in the Nursing program, so Gustafson teaches every class at every level of the program.

“I love those 'aha' moments- when something they previously didn't understand just clicks,” she said. “I also love seeing former students out in the workplace. I think the most gratifying thing is seeing one of my former students precepting one of my current students.”

In response to pandemic restrictions, Gustafson stepped up for the Nursing program, assisting others with teaching technologies and helping develop online tools to help students and faculty. She hosted workshops for other faculty members, created technology cheat sheets, and taught others how to enhance their online teaching with technology.

In addition to teaching, Gustafson is active on the Curriculum Review Committee and serves as chair of the Nursing department.

michelle harrisMichelle Harris

Michelle Harris had been teaching part-time in the Portland area for six years when she was hired at Centralia College full-time in 2017. A native Washingtonian, she and her husband wanted to live closer to family and Centralia College was a good opportunity.

She teaches geology at CC and loves every class.

“I really enjoy all of them, and I mean it!” she said. “Geology 108-Natural Hazards is the most popular, but, if I had to choose, I would pick Geology 103- Historical Geology because I am slightly obsessed with paleontology and dinosaurs. I am so fascinated with how much we know about Earth’s past.”

While a passion for geology led her into teaching, it’s a love for students that makes the job rewarding year after year.

“I love seeing students get excited about the Earth,” she added. “I love seeing them succeed in my classes and get over their ‘fear’ of science. I love sharing my passion for rocks, volcanoes, dinosaurs, and climate change with others.”

In addition to teaching, Harris is the coordinator of the Rising Tides Seminar Series (science-themed series of guest speakers). She is also active on the college’s Sustainability Committee, Assessment Committee, and the Exceptional Student Award Committee, and is the faculty advisor for the Environmental Science Club for students.

She is an active member in several professional programs, including SAGE (Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education), AEG (Association of Environmental Geologists), AWG (Association of Women Geologists), and NAGT (National Association of Geoscience Teachers). She also volunteers with the Mount St Helens Institute to lead guided geology hikes into the crater at the summit every summer.


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