Meet EWU’s Alumni Award Winners

The 2022 EWU Alumni Awards Gala was held on Friday, April 15, at the Pend Oreille Pavilion inside Northern Quest Resort & Casino.  

Here are the evening’s award winners, with a brief description of the many, many things this group of alumni do to make an impact in their communities.

Award recipients pictured from left to right: Brian and McKenzie Wells (accepting on behalf of Evan Hilberg), Tamra Jackson, Karen and Jon Heimbigner, Jeanette Day, Brigadier General Ret. Nikki Griffin Olive and Raynee Miller.

Lifetime Achievement | Jon ’70 & Karen ’69 Heimbigner | Retired, Inland NW Telecommunications and Spokane Public Schools

Jon Heimbigner used his EWU degree in finance and economics to enter the banking industry, where, over the course of a 21-year career, he established himself as an expert in helping financial institutions improve customer service. After retiring from banking, Jon immediately formed a successful telecommunications start-up, Inland NW Telecommunications, with two partners.

Karen Heimbigner worked for 27 years as a classroom teacher at North Central High School. Her work with a state curriculum development team helped create a program designed to provide hands-on experience for high school students who envision becoming teachers themselves. She continues to give back as a beloved substitute teacher and faculty mentor at NC.

Throughout their busy professional lives and now, in retirement, Karen and Jon have been tireless champions of volunteerism through Young Life, regional athletics associations, EWU athletics and other passionate endeavors. 

To meet the Heimbigners, click on this video link.

Alum of Service – Organizational | Jeanette Day ’76 |Attorney, San Diego County Juvenile Division

In addition to her work as a legal advocate for children, Jeanette Day, in 2003, founded the “Just in Time for Foster Youth” program. The program provides life-skill tools, career counseling and other support to help young people, especially young women, who are emerging from the foster care system develop the skills and self-confidence to succeed as adults.

Day has received many outstanding awards, including the 2014 Salvation Army Woman of Dedication. The San Diego Bar Association recognized her work to improve outcomes for children with educational issues, and, just before the pandemic struck in 2019, she was honored as a “Wonder Woman” for foster youth.

Click on this video link to meet Jeanette Day.

Alum of Service – Education | Tamra Jackson ’86, ’90 | Principal, Bridgeport High School

As principal of Bridgeport High School in rural Douglas County, Tamra Jackson has touched the lives of hundreds of young men and women in the rural agricultural community. She has engaged, supported and inspired them to prepare for the future and become the first in their families to go to college. 

Many of her students face challenges with food and housing insecurity, and a lack of access to healthcare and other essentials. Jackson has spent her career working to ensure that such barriers don’t get in the way of her students’ path to success.

Her efforts were recognized both regionally and nationally. Since 2004, she has been an America Achieves Principal Fellow, and in 2009 she was named a Teacher Ambassador Fellow by the U.S. Department of Education. She has also been recognized as a White House Champion of Change in Education.

Click on this video link to meet Tamra Jackson.

Alum of Service – Military | Brigadier General Ret. Nikki Griffin Olive ’90 | Brigadier General, Retired, United States Army

Always tops in her class with Eastern’s ROTC battalion, Gen. Nikki Griffin Olive was commissioned into the Army’s Signal Core as a Distinguished Military Graduate. It’s an honor that goes to less than 10 percent of the nation’s ROTC graduates.

At every stage of her career, from her start as a tactical communications platoon leader with the 559th Field Artillery, to her final assignment as the Deputy Commanding General for the 335th Signal Command, Gen. Griffin Olive has succeeded in advancing the capabilities of our armed forces through information and communications work vital to the command and control of armed forces.

General Griffin Olive, the only female brigadier general to come out of the EWU ROTC program, played a significant role in successfully coordinating one of the largest and most complex military-operations networks in our nation’s history. She was also recognized with the Outstanding Military Volunteer Service Award.

Click on this video link to meet Brigadier General Ret. Nikki Griffin Olive.

Inspirational Young Alum | Dr. Evan Hilberg ’13 | Medical Policy Research Analyst, Cambia Health Services

Since his days as an Eagle, Evan Hilberg has earned an additional master’s degree in biostatistics, Hilberg works on efforts to make our health-care system more person-focused and economically sustainable. While working on his PhD, Evan investigated how children’s physical activity, or lack thereof, might affect health outcomes.

Hilberg later followed up with work as a statistical consultant to Holt International’s Child Nutrition Program, where he helped advance several important projects related to that organization’s effort to end malnutrition among some of the world’s most vulnerable children. 

He has volunteered for Americore, the American Public Health Association, the Western Society for Kinesiology and Wellness, and a program mentoring up-and-coming public health and health sciences students at OSU.

Click on this video link to meet Dr. Evan Hilberg.

Eagle4Life Spirit | Raynee Miller ’92 | Juvenile Probation Counselor, Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center

For the young people who spend time in the office with Raynee Miller, her extensive collection of Eagle décor sends a message that there is a healthier path that these often vulnerable, high-risk youth might pursue. It serves as a reminder that — with hard work and dedication — a university degree, and a better life, are possible.

Years ago as an Eastern student and member of the cheer team, Raynee connected with, and later married, fellow squad member Kyle Miller. She is known for always wearing Eagle gear and for her enthusiastic support of Eagle Athletics.

The couple embodies the Eagle4Life lifestyle. They regularly attend athletic events and alumni gatherings; mentor students and potential students; and support scholarships and other student-center initiatives. 

Click on this video link to meet Raynee Miller.

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