WSU Foundation announces top awards

The Washington State University Foundation will celebrate the leadership, service, and commitment of its remarkable volunteers at the annual Awards Celebration in Pullman this week.

On Thursday, Sept. 29, the Foundation will bestow its most prestigious volunteer award — the Weldon B. Gibson Distinguished Volunteer Award — on Dan Harmon ’80. And it will present its topmost volunteer award for service to athletics — the William F. “Biff” Brotherton Cougar Spirit Award — to Nancy Harnasch ’71.

Six additional volunteers, as well as three WSU faculty and staff, will also be recognized at the event with Outstanding Service Awards.

“It is an honor to acknowledge the commitment, leadership and advocacy demonstrated by each of these remarkable and generous individuals,” said Mike Connell, vice president for advancement and CEO, WSU Foundation. “Collectively, their contributions as volunteers and donors are making a lasting impact for our students, faculty, research and programs, and on the communities WSU proudly serves.” 

The 2022 Gibson Award Recipient — Dan Harmon ’80

The Weldon B. Gibson Distinguished Volunteer Award is the Foundation’s highest honor. The award is named for the Foundation’s founding chair, the late Dr. Weldon B. “Hoot” Gibson ’38, who through his generous efforts and energy gave shape and direction to the university’s fundraising activities. This honor recognizes those individuals whose service has attained the highest levels of impact and achievement.

The Foundation is delighted to name Dan Harmon the 2022 Gibson Award recipient, adding to Harmon’s extensive list of volunteer accomplishments and recognitions.

When applying to law school after earning his WSU undergrad degree, Harmon needed a recommendation. President Glenn Terrell personally wrote him a letter. This gesture reaffirmed Harmon’s Cougar pride, and he has gone on to epitomize the power of outstanding leadership to change the world for the better.

“Dan is passionate about WSU and has worked tirelessly for decades to grow the university’s culture of philanthropy that improves the experience for students system-wide,” said Connell. “His generous service and support for WSU is the epitome of what this esteemed honor represents and celebrates.”

Harmon gives back as a volunteer leader extraordinaire at WSU. Currently chairing the Foundation’s Campaign Organizing Committee, he has also chaired the WSU Foundation (WSUF) Board of Directors, and served on the WSUF Board of Trustees, Portland Leadership Advisory Council, WSU Golf Course Committee, Cougar Athletic Foundation Advisory Council, and WSU Vancouver Business Advisory Board. He has previously received the WSU Vancouver Chancellor’s Award and WSU Foundation Outstanding Service Award.

The 2022 Brotherton Award recipient — Nancy Harnasch ’71

The William F. “Biff” Brotherton Cougar Spirit Award honors those who demonstrate generous philanthropic support of — and enthusiastic volunteerism on behalf of — Cougar Athletics and WSU. Established in 2011 after its namesake’s passing, the award honors William F. “Biff” Brotherton (’65), whose own legacy is one of spirited leadership and generosity.

Nancy Harnasch travels across the state from Redmond to cheer on the Cougs at all home games — plus she attends the Apple Cup, even when played in rival territory. She was the first female president of a county (King) and the state Cougar Club boards, and has served on the Athletic Council, as well as numerous athletics search committees.

Harnasch has also been a donor and/or volunteer to Friends of the Library, Carson College of Business, Parent Program, Cougar Yacht Club, CAHNRS/AWW Wine Auction, WSU West Event Committee, and WSU Centennial Celebration Committee, as well as a WSU Alumni Association director, WSUF board member and Trustee, and, currently, a WSUF Advocate Emeriti.

“I knew Biff Brotherton. His passion for WSU was unlimited and infectious,” said Harnasch.  “To receive this award — which maybe means I have just a portion of his passion and spirit for WSU — is a real honor.” 

2022 Outstanding Service Award Recipients

The Outstanding Service Awards are granted to those who have made significant contributions in service to the WSU Foundation and the university’s fundraising efforts. The recipients are advocates for philanthropy who inspire the broader WSU community through their dedication and commitment to help the university realize its full potential through private support.

This year’s volunteer OSA recipients are:

  • Michael Blankenship ’13 — As a student at WSU Vancouver, Blankenship supported numerous diversity-focused student groups and provided tours to campus visitors. His dedication to students led him to get involved in WSU’s annual day of giving, raising money for scholarships in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Michael’s own $21 donation attracted several new donors, and he has helped raise funds to create the very first endowed scholarship at WSU which gives preference to LGBTQ+ students.
  • Mike ’75  and Debbie ’75 Leslie — Mike and Debbie Leslie, both WSU alums, have served on many committees to further the WSU Foundation’s mission to advance the university. The Leslies have a long history of delivering on their commitments and providing honest feedback and insight to help improve WSU and the WSU experience. Their enthusiasm and loyalty are the epitome of Cougar spirit. Together, they are helping ensure a brighter future for all who have been touched by their generosity.
  • Tony ’08, ’11 and Emily ’14  Poston — Tony and Emily, both WSU alums, are deeply invested in both the WSU and Pullman communities. Tony is an entrepreneur who owned a business in Pullman and supports numerous community organizations through committee and board service. As executive director for Cougs First!, he connects Cougar-owned businesses with WSU graduates. Emily’s devotion to teaching led her to work at a Pullman elementary school where she also serves as an advisor, promoting a positive culture of kindness in school. The Postons embody the best of what it means to be a Coug, through their service and dedication.
  • Rebecca Andrew Zanatta ’97 — Rebecca Andrew Zanatta is passionate about enriching WSU’s fundraising efforts. As an inaugural chair of the WSU Foundation Advocates, she has worked tirelessly to build the structure for this volunteer board. She has served on the WSU Foundation Nominating Committee, recruiting talented candidates for the Advocates group, and her commitment to students is also reflected in her service as chair of the Alpha Phi Foundation Board of Directors and her involvement in various sorority committees and boards.

This year’s faculty/staff OSA recipients are:

  • Byron Marlowe — Byron Marlowe, who passed away unexpectedly last December, was WSU’s Don Smith Distinguished Professor. As a Fulbright Scholar, he served as a visiting lecturer and researcher in Germany, China, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria. Marlowe made a profound impact on students as director of the WSU Tri-Cities Wine and Beverage Business Management Program, and his positive impact on students also extended to the Graduate School and the Honors College at WSU Pullman. Marlowe was an outstanding mentor and an accomplished industry professional who made a difference at WSU, throughout the Tri-Cities community, and beyond.
  • Mel Netzhammer — As chancellor of WSU Vancouver, Mel Netzhammer is a visionary leader. Through his innovative spirit, he has developed several strategic partnerships to support economic development and to grow the workforce in southwest Washington and the greater Vancouver area. He encourages campus and community engagement, academic and research excellence, and compassionate service. Netzhammer and his husband, Lee, also champion WSU Vancouver’s priorities through their philanthropic support.
  • Nancy Swanger — As an educator in the Carson College of Business, Nancy Swanger’s entrepreneurial spirit is transforming academic programs in the School of Hospitality Business Management and the Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living through an exceptional experiential learning experience. Swanger regularly speaks at WSU and community events to raise awareness and funds for programs in the Carson College. Her passion for student success in academics and athletics is making a lasting impact.

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