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Alumni Profiles. Mountain climber Curt Peterson '81 learns more after his descent

Alumnus overcomes obstacles to help others

by Katherine Hedland Hansen '88

Curt Peterson ’81 has climbed Mt. McKinley and almost made it up Mt. Everest twice. But he had more uphill battles after trying to conquer the world’s highest peaks. The Kirkland, Wash., businessman learned from his climbs that getting to the top of the mountain wasn’t his only goal. Driven and determined, on his 2000 trip to Everest, Peterson reached 20,000 feet with a broken ankle before being forced to abandon his quest for the summit. He later learned he had broken the record for the highest altitude reached while injured.

His second attempt earlier this year had to be called off when he suffered potentially fatal cerebral edema caused by high altitude. He stayed on the mountain longer than doctors wanted, hoping to complete his climb, but finally admitted he had to get medical care. He continues to recover. He says he’s not affected daily, but calls himself “permanently compromised,” meaning he’ll always be susceptible to altitude sickness and likely cannot climb again.
But his trips to Everest were still successful, as they raised money and awareness of causes important to Peterson and made him more resolute in his goals of outreach.

“When you’ve seen God pull you through on that last hurdle time and time again, you’re determined to give it that final effort,” he said.

After reaching the summit of McKinley in 1999, Peterson made his first Everest ascent a chance to raise money and awareness about Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition related to autism that affects social interaction skills and afflicts his 18-year-old son, Kurt. Peterson raised $10,000 for the Asperger’s Foundation, which indirectly led to a $10 million donation from the Gates Foundation for the Autism Research Center in Seattle.

His last climb garnered pledges of $10,000 for the McFadden-Willis Children Memorial Foundation ( His cousin, Christine McFadden of Merced, Calif., started the foundation in memory of her four children who were murdered by her ex-husband in 2002. She has started scholarships, given money to build a reading room at a library and hopes to build a pediatric wing and children’s playroom at Mercy Medical Center.

“It’s proof that good can come from evil,” Peterson said.

He credits PLU for much of his drive. He says football coach Frosty Westering, and former crew coach Dave Peterson, were instrumental in forming his confidence and ambition. He rowed to the Northwest Championship on the crew team.

“They were formidable in my development, and PLU has always been supportive of community service,” he said.

After PLU, Peterson studied international relations at Stanford University, then owned and operated several commercial fisheries partnerships in Alaska. He and Arne Einmo ’62 founded IFQ Brokers, and Peterson continues to lead the company that brokers fishing grounds for Bering Sea anglers.

He says his fund raising and outreach efforts show a hobby can turn into much more.

“People can be creative and have great enthusiasm for something they have a passion for.”

Randa Shoeb ’03 celebrates with her husband, Abba Zaher, her son, Rafik, and her daughter, Nada, after her graduation in August.

Woman leaves Egypt in order to return better prepared to teach there

by Greg Brewis

She didn’t exactly commute from Alexandria, Egypt, to Tacoma, but Randa Shoeb ’03 did spend 14 months almost half a world away from her husband and two young children to earn her M.A. in education.

A certified teacher, Shoeb began her career at Schutz American School in Alexandria—a private American international school—as registrar and as an admissions counselor. But soon she found her calling in the classroom.

“After moving from administration and spending three years in the classroom, I knew that I wanted to make teaching my career,” Shoeb said. “I also knew that in order to teach and teach well, I needed the proper training.”

When Shoeb was a child her family lived in Tacoma, so returning to Washington, where she had many family friends, was a natural. And PLU’s program was a perfect fit.

“I researched all of the master’s in education programs in Washington
and found PLU’s to be one of the best,” she said.

Beginning at PLU in June 2002, Shoeb took courses and practiced student teaching for a year at the middle school level at Charles Wright Academy.
While Shoeb found her studies rewarding on many levels, the time away from home was not easy.

“One of the hardest things for me was being away from my family. I had a lot of support at home and my family encouraged me to pursue my dreams.

“If it wasn't for their support, I could never have done this,” she said.
Shoeb’s husband, Abbas Zaher, is an orthodontist in private practice and
is a professor at the University of Alexandria dental school. Her son, Rafik Zaher, 12, is in seventh grade. Her daughter, Nada Zaher, 9, is in fourth grade.

“We kept in touch daily online, and were able to talk for hours, so that was a lifesaver. I also visited home several times during my stay, and they were able to come and see me. In the end it all worked out,” she said.

At commencement in August Shoeb was one of four graduates to receive Graduate Studies Achievement Awards, which recognize students’ exemplary academic performance, collegial relationships that stimulate the learning and dedication of others and special contributions to profession or community.

She returned the to Schultz American School to teach seventh- and eighth-grade English and social studies.

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By: Curt Peterson '81



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