Walla Walla School District’s highest honor bestowed on alumni are its Graduates of Distinction awards, which this year went to Dr. Tony Billingsley, Class of 1993, Peggy Blize Needham, Class of 1982, and Scott Krivoshein and Mary Lux Stumph, both from the Class of 1983. They were inducted into the 2019 Graduates of Distinction program.
Educators James Chubb, Dick Neher, Johnnie Dennis and Martha Lehnen were named inspirational staff members for having a significant influence in the honorees’ lives.
A risk prevention specialist and networker, Peggy puts others first. Scott is a financial business leader who dedicates his life to better the community. Mary is a medical sales professional who values hard work and helping others and Tony is a medical caregiver who bases his career and service on relationships.
Now in its 21st year, the Graduates of Distinction program recognizes and honors the distinguished achievements of Walla Walla Public Schools’ high school graduates. The award also pays tribute to school staff members who provided positive school experiences and were inspirational in the lives of these graduates.
Nominators Lizbette Feria, Nancy McClenny-Walters, Noemi Sarmiento and Scott Bieber, say Peggy is committed to promoting a drug free community. Through W2 for Drug Free Youth, Peggy has been able to promote and enhance drug prevention efforts for elementary through high school students. And, best of all, she has encouraged teens to become involved as positive role models. Peggy’s life goal is to connect with people in the Walla Walla Valley and help them live safely, most notably the Valley’s children. Since 1990, the Walla Walla native has been actively involved in prevention emphasis work. She established a drug free workplace program during her early years with the Walla Walla County Department of Human Services and directed the Substance Abuse and County Traffic Safety Task forces. While an injury prevention specialist with the Walla Walla Fire Department, she helped reduce fall and accident calls from older citizens to EMTs by 30 percent, according to one of her nominators. With grant funding, she also worked for the Retired Senior Volunteer Project and spent time on traffic safety programs for the same population. She worked to have flashing speed limit signs installed around Prospect Point and to have reduced speed limits near the busy Howard Street/Abbott Road intersection. As a parent involved in the Walla Walla select baseball program, she raised more than $9,000 to replace an aging backstop at Garrison Middle School. One of her proudest accomplishments is bringing the Sources of Strength National Suicide Prevention Program to four high schools and three middle schools, aiming to instill hope, help, strength and connections for young people.
Peggy said she could count on Garrison Middle School Principal James Chubb, her inspirational staff person. She said he was always present when people talked with him and everyone knew he was listening. She remembers his leadership, guidance and genuine care for people today as she performs her work in the community.
Nominator Mark Klicker said Scott is a man who volunteers because he is grateful for the community support he received while growing up in Walla Walla. Scott loved competing in sports at Wa-Hi, especially football. He was the type of teammate who rallied the team to go all out. The expression “Bleed Blue” could very easily have Scott’s name linked to it. Scott has been described by some as “Mr. Community Service.” Since returning to Walla Walla after his 1986 graduation from Mt. Hood Community College, Scott has immersed himself in community initiatives and Rotary Club of Walla Walla, Big Blue Boosters, Chamber of Commerce, school district committees and AAU basketball and softball coaching. He has also supported Hospice and the Blue Mountain Humane Society over the years. Nominator Dan Hess said Scott is a “bulldog on all projects in which he participates.,” citing his tenacious work with the Wa-Hi track project through Big Blue Boosters. He began fundraising in 2009, revived the effort again in 2013 and watched the project come to fruition in 2017, due in large part to $800,000 in private community donations that he helped raise. Scott also was instrumental in getting the new track named after legendary teacher and coach Dave Klicker. Scott is a business professional, first in his family’s funeral home, then moving to Baker Boyer Bank as an investment adviser and finally running Krivoshein Financial since 2001. He has received multiple awards from the Raymond James Executive Council in recognition of strong business growth; and his firm has been voted “Best of the Best Financial Advisors” for seven years. All his nominators, Kim McDaniels, Mike Clark, Marc Yonts, Mark, Dan and John Royse, concur Scott is a loyal friend to many and commend his dedication to family, clients and citizens of his hometown community. Scott chose high school principal Dick Neher as his inspirational staff member, saying Dick was a “listener, boundary setter and he walked with us, not against us. He taught us respect and honor, even into his retirement.”
Friend and cousin Julie Gwinn Cox nominated Mary with the support of Melissa Hayes. A common theme noted in Mary’s nomination was her desire to serve and improve the quality of life for all those around her. A strong work ethic is second nature to Mary, who grew up on her family’s wheat farm, who learned early on not to quite until the work is done. While attending pharmacy school at Washington State University, she received a rare internship with major pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Her internship resulted in a job offer launching a 30-year career in sales and management positions. Fellow Eli Lilly co-worker and nominator Andy Metzinger said “Mary was an invaluable employee because she actively modeled excellence, leadership, teamwork and character.” Co-worker Jenny Metcalf said Mary paved a path for women in her profession and mentored many colleagues in leadership skills, collaboration, communication and conflict resolution. She volunteered in classrooms, was Graduation Night committee chair twice and helped raise more than $60,000 for Stadium High School’s booster club. In retirement, she continues to volunteer in unique ways. On Thursdays, she rocks babies in a neonatal intensive care unit, and serves as the unpaid executive director of the Patient Support Foundation. In this role, she helps patients and their families navigate the health care system and advocates to get cancer patients the best possible care — something she learned as a breast cancer survivor. Mary chose high school assistant basketball coach Martha Lehnen as her inspirational staff person. She calls Martha more of a life coach and said the basics she took away from her time with Martha were “respect for people, the importance of goal setting and always giving 100 percent.” She said she still remembers Martha’s encouraging words and strong support of confidence.
Friends from his school days in Walla Walla remember Tony as a natural leader and steadfast friend, with a true commitment to teamwork. Tony graduated from Whitworth College in 1997 and the University of Washington Medical School in 2002. He was appointed chief resident during his residency at Madigan Army Medical Center. Since returning to Walla Walla in 2005, he has worked in the Providence St. Mary Medical Center emergency room. He serves as emergency department medical director in addition to beginning a two-year term as chief of staff. He also lends his medical expertise to Wa-Hi, Whitman College, Young Life’s Middle School Camp at Washington Ranch and the Milton-Freewater Rural Fire and Ambulance Department. Tony has volunteered with Walla Walla Hospice and Blue Mountain Community Foundation Boards. He is active on his church music team and as an AAU basketball coach. He is known for being tech savvy and loves coming to the rescue for family and friends. He also helped develop and implement an electronic medical information system currently used throughout the Providence health network. Nominations came from Marc Yonts, with help from Mike Clark, Dr. Philip Green, Jesse Broel and Dr. Marc Bruce.
Tony named longtime Wa-Hi teacher Johnnie Dennis as his inspirational staff person. He took zero period physics from him and says the early hours were memorable because he was such an enthusiastic and dynamic teacher. Tony remembers amazing classroom demonstrations, such as lying down on a bed of nails to explain the distribution of force. He said it was a pleasure to learn from such a committed person.