NW Cougar Quarterly

Winter 2020 Issue

Table of contents

Alumni Spotlight

Zeke Estes, '19, B.S. in Electrical Engineering

Tell us about your journey to being a Cougar.

Zeke Estes

In high school I knew that I wanted to do something with computers or engineering, but I didn’t know what. My school, Woodland High School, offered the opportunity to attend Clark County Skills Center (now Cascadia Tech Center). In my junior year, I participated in its Electro Digital Technologies program, and that led me to my passion: electrical engineering.

As a senior I attended Clark College through the Running Start program, so by the time I graduated from high school, I had completed half of my associate’s degree. Then I applied to WSU Vancouver. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to take engineering courses at Clark, so I ended up spending four years at WSU Vancouver instead of two.

Early on, I learned about the Office of Student Involvement and applied for a position as the chair of the Student Media Board. I met a lot of great people in this position, including Chancellor Mel Netzhammer, who has become a dear friend and mentor. This was the moment I realized that being in a small university like WSU Vancouver gives you innumerable opportunities, and that the people there really care about their students past, present and future.

Later I became a senator and senate secretary with the Associated Students of WSU Vancouver. That helped me gain a unique perspective on the student body’s role in shaping the campus.

What are you doing now?

Before graduating, I interned with Burns & McDonnell in their Networks Integration and Automation department. I got hired after graduation and have been working with Burns & McDonnell ever since. My main work is designing communication systems for large-scale utilities.

My partner and I just got back from Disneyland for Christmas, and I think it’s become a tradition. Our goal is to visit every Disney park in the world, and out of 12 total parks, we have been to half of them.

What is the strangest place you’ve been and met another Coug?

Surprisingly, I think the strangest place I’ve ever seen a Coug is the farthest I could possibly get from WSU—Orlando Fla., while in Disney World. I saw a fellow wearing a Cougar cap, and we said “Go Cougs!”

What did you most enjoy about the WSU Vancouver campus and/or your program?

I really enjoyed its small-town feel. I felt this in my classes, because every teacher knew their students by name, and I felt it as a member of OSI, with how everyone knows each other and cares about the campus.

How has WSU Vancouver changed since you were a student?

Plans have been revealed for student housing and new buildings, and the new iTech Prep High School is already up! It’s good to see WSU Vancouver growing and expanding.

How do you support WSU Vancouver as an alumni?

I have been advocating for more Cougs here at Burns & McDonnell. Five graduates from WSU Vancouver work in our Pacific Northwest office. The company has a University Outreach Committee, and I am heavily involved with WSU Vancouver’s relationship with Burns & McDonnell. I look forward to what we can make of it.

How Coug are you?

One of my favorite memories as a Coug was working with the VanCougar Newspaper a few years ago when a big snowstorm hit campus. Fellow students and community members were playing in the snow, and a few people even brought snowboards. I was there as a photographer and caught a photo of someone doing a backflip off a handmade snow jump. I have the picture framed and on my wall at home.

What is your advice for current students or future Cougs?

Think outside the box and take advantage of opportunities outside your comfort zone. I never had any intention to partake in student involvement, but that enabled me to build skills I never would have thought were necessary. Those skills and the people I met led to success in my career.

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Cougar Business Alliance Spotlight

Windy Hills Winery
David Kelly, '81, WSU Pullman

David Kelly

In 2015, David Kelly planted a vineyard and prepared to construct his winery near Ridgefield, Wash., his longtime home. He had dreamed of owning his own business since his college days at WSU Pullman but had postponed it until his retirement.

“Over the past 40 years, the experiences that I had gained in the marketplace prepared me to make this dream come true during my retirement,” Kelly said. “I had been intrigued by the wine business since my WSU days, when going back and forth to school I noticed a lone vineyard north of Pasco, Wash., all by itself and thought whoever was running it must either be ahead of his time or crazy.”

When his daughter graduated from WSU Pullman in 2010, he made that drive again. That vineyard was no longer all by itself but surrounded by 150 others. “That is when I really started to research the opportunity that the wine business might offer our family to utilize our land positively and to make a difference in our community,” Kelly said.

The Kelly family business has three components. First, it is a traditional winery with production using grapes from its own and other vineyards, complete with a tasting room. Second, it is an event center used for weddings, anniversaries, holiday parties, music events and so on. Third, it is a community asset, providing a facility for fundraisers, community events and meetings. “We are proud that over $1 million dollars has been raised at events that have taken place at our facility,” Kelly said.

He understands that the key to success lies with the consumer experience at Windy Hills Winery. “We know that we have to be on our game at all times,” he said, “as we only get to make a first impression one time.” They have exceeded their growth goals of 10% to 15% yearly.

You’ll often find winery staff in Coug attire, “and we love when fellow Cougs come in and see us,” Kelly said.

That can be a good icebreaker. “Whenever you meet someone from WSU, there is an instant connection that happens,” Kelly said. “You seem like old friends even though you just met.” The connection knows no boundaries. He remembers meeting a Coug from France at a trade fair in Germany.

Two other Kelly family members are also Cougs. David’s mother, Carol, graduated in nursing in 1956, and his daughter, Ashley Miller, in hospitality business management in 2010. Ashley is the director of events at Windy Hills Winery.

He is proud that WSU Vancouver has grown up in this area. “I think WSU Vancouver provides an opportunity for anyone in the community to pursue their dreams no matter what their age may be,” he said. “It may be finally getting that degree that has eluded them, or may be getting an advanced degree that may lead to a better job. It may be utilizing the Business Growth MAP program to better their business and help achieve the goals that the business has set out.”

Kelly loves his so-called “retirement” job. “Seeing smiles, people talking to each other and having a good time, whether at a wedding or event or just a normal day in the tasting room, makes me feel that it is all worth it,” he said.

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Women’s History Month Hygiene Drive

Women's History Month Hygiene Drive March 2 – 27

Donate needed items to Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest. Requested items include body wash, conditioner, deodorant, dry and liquid shampoo, feminine products, hand sanitizer, lip balm, lotion, soap, tissues, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Collection bins will be located on campus in the Dengerink Administration Building, Firstenburg Student Commons, Library and Student Services Center, and off campus at:

  • Chuck's Produce & Street Market, 2302 NE 117th St, Vancouver, WA 98686
  • Mahoney’s Public House, 10714 NW Lakeshore Ave, Suite 105, Vancouver, WA 98685
  • StarCycle Vancouver, 3215 SE 192nd Ave, Suite100, Vancouver, WA 98683
  • Studio 192 Hair & Nails, 2004 SE 192nd Ave, Suite 104, Vancouver, WA 98683

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Volunteer with Cougs in the Community

Women’s History Month Care Packages
9  – 11 a.m. March 28

Assemble care packages for local women and girls in need.

Cougar Trail Maintenance
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. April 18

Keep our campus trails beautiful for students and visitors.

Save the Date!
May Day Flowers

10 a.m. – 3 p.m. May 1

Help assemble and deliver flowers to local WSU Golden Grads.

Questions? Email van.alumni@wsu.edu or call 360-546-9600.

Volunteer Today!

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Mentoring Opportunities

Fostering Higher Education

Youth in foster care are paired with experienced mentors who can help them learn about and succeed in a postsecondary program.

Time commitment: Five hours per month

More information: 360-546-9629 or sara.spiers@wsu.edu

Business Growth MAP

Mentors help business students put classroom knowledge into practice while contributing to the success of small businesses in the region.

Time commitment: Three hours a week during a 16-week semester

More information: Become a mentor

Carson Coaching Program

Seasoned professionals provide one-on-one coaching in their desired industry.

Time commitment: Two or three meetings a month between student and mentor by phone or in person

More information: van.cb@wsu.edu

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Build a Legacy

Andrea Castillo

Starting at age 70 1/2, you can transfer your IRA funds directly to the WSU Foundation—a tax-smart way to help civic-minded WSU students like Andrea Castillo fulfill their dream and build their own Coug legacy.

"Your support lets me focus on what I love—being involved on campus and helping other students at WSU Vancouver succeed."

Andrea Castillo, studying elementary education at WSU Vancouver

Learn how you can help WSU students with a gift from your IRA.

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Honor a Coug with a Legacy Square

Legacy Square

Know a VanCoug who is graduating in May 2020?

Give the gift of a Legacy Square to commemorate their achievements at WSU Vancouver.

To order, visit our Legacy Square page.

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Book Butch T. Cougar

Butch T. Cougar

Bring Cougar spirit to your next event!

Reserve Butch by contacting van.alumni@wsu.edu or call 360-546-9600.

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Re-Imagined Radio

Re-Imagined Radio

The Immortal Sherlock Holmes
7 p.m. April 23
Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St., Vancouver, WA 98660

Sherlock Holmes, the most famous of all fictional detectives, uses his amazing powers of deduction to solve mysteries, murders and other crimes. This Re-Imagined Radio performance gives an appropriate tip of the deerstalker hat to the man who never lived, but whose enduring legend will never die.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 day of show.

Learn more about Re-Imagined Radio.

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adidas Employee Store Shopping


March 1-31

WSU Alumni —shop at the adidas Employee Store March 1-31 just in time to refresh your spring wardrobe. To shop, register online before March 30. Each registrant can bring up to four guests. For more information, contact van.alumni@wsu.edu.

adidas Employee Store
2701 NW Vaughn St., Ste. 209 Portland, OR 97210

Store hours
Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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Join the Alumni Association today.