Nurse of the year

By Kelsey Liddle ’10
As a first-generation college attendee, Marguerite Samms ’88 says she pleaded with the dean of admissions to be admitted to PLU, then leaned on faculty and other students for support. Ultimately, she graduated with honors and a bachelor’s of science in nursing.

At first, Samms was insecure about her academic abilities prior to entering college.

“PLU was the turning point for me,” Samms said, recalling the moment she was accepted to the university. Since then, she’s seen numerous successes, most recently recognized as NurseWeek magazine’s Nurse of the Year.

Upon graduation, Samms served in several health care capacities, including stints as a floor nurse and an in-home care provider. For the last five years, Samms has worked as an education director at Tacoma General Hospital. She is currently director of education services for MultiCare Health System’s Institute for Learning and Development.
In January 2007, she was nominated for the NurseWeek award by her peers. Samms won the regional award, then flew to Las Vegas for the national gathering. She won that, too.

Samms credits teamwork for her achievement of the honor.

“When you can work with a team, day in and day out, and see that success,” Samms said, “you know you all deserve it.”

When the opportunity arose to join the Institute for Learning and Development, Samms questioned the change because she enjoyed the ability to directly affect the lives of others. Instead, Samms has found a sense of comfort in her new position. Specifically, she enjoys seeing change in adults as they learn new techniques.

Samms has taught thousands of nurses who have passed through MultiCare’s program. In 2006 alone, 230 nurses went through residency, a major accomplishment for Samms and her team.

Samms again credits her education with providing her with a thirst for knowledge.

“PLU,” Samms said, “was the most remarkable thing for me.”

Dealing in historical coins proves to be a rare gift

By: Barbara Clements
Todd Imhof ’86 wasn’t planning a career in rare coin dealing when he left PLU with a degree in political science. In fact, he was leaving for New York to work in the banking business at Chase.

Then a friend from high school pulled him aside and told him about a business idea to sell rare coins. Imhof jumped in, begging off Wall Street and opening Hertzberg Rare Coins in Tacoma.

“I found myself intrigued by both the coins and the industry,” he said. “It seemed right to me, so I decided to give it a shot.”

The company grew quickly, and in 1990 was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the fasting-growing small companies in the United States. That same year, he bought-out his partner and renamed the business Pinnacle Rarities, based in Lakewood, Wash., and  focused the company on high-end collectors and investors.

“I quickly acquired an appreciation for the history and artistry of coins, and more important, I found I loved dealing with collectors,” Imhof said.

In 1993, at the age of only 25, Imhof became one of the youngest dealers ever accepted as a member of the Professional Numismatists Guild.

In 2005, Imhof made headlines when he purchased, on behalf of a collector, a 1927 $20 gold piece for $1.9 million. It still remains the world-record price for a single-issue coin in a public auction. Since then, Imhof has sold items of greater value, including a large collection for over $15 million.

Currently, Imhof is vice president of Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries. He handles the accounts of Heritage’s high net worth clients, and oversees the company’s transactions involving complex financial arrangements. At Pinnacle, Imhof oversaw about 10 employees and did about $25 million worth of business a year. Heritage has more than 300 employees and does about $700 million a year.

Since relocating to Dallas in 2006, Imhof has been handling other valuables aside from coins. These include John F. Kennedy’s rocking chair from the White House, Buzz Aldrin’s memorabilia from his Apollo moon missions, a Chagall painting, a Babe Ruth All-Star jersey and Ulysses S. Grant’s Civil War sword – which sold for $1.5 million.

Then there are the items that are also expensive, but as Imhof notes, less serious. Items such as Anna Nicole Smith’s personal diary, which sold for more than $50,000; a lock of Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara’s hair, selling for $100,000; and a rare “Bride of Frankenstein” poster for more than $300,000.

In total, Imhof spent 18 months at PLU. He recalls his college years as one of finding focus, despite a lack of motivation academically.

 “I just couldn’t find an area that interested me,” he said. “But I credit a couple of PLU professors for figuring out a way to inspire my learning, including Dick Olufs and Ann Kelleher.”

He also met his wife, Heidi Nuss ’88, at PLU. The couple have three children, Nicholas, 7, James, 6, and Madison, 1.

“Certainly, the historical significance and artistic beauty of many of these coins holds appeal to me,” Imhof concluded. “But it isn’t so much the rare coins themselves as much as it is the tangible assets and business in general that I find interesting.

“Trading precious metals, along with buying and selling very rare and expensive items and working with astute collector-investors is a great job, and I’m fortunate to love what I do.”

Crystal Aikin named ‘Sunday Best’ on BET

By: Megan Haley

Crystal Aikin ’97 was selected from thousands to be crowned the winner of Black Entertainment Television’s “Sunday Best.”

On Dec. 4, Crystal Aikin ’97 was crowned the winner of Black Entertainment Television’s “Sunday Best.”

Aikin was selected from thousands of contestants nationwide to perform on the show, a gospel version of Fox’s popular singing competition “American Idol.” For the grand finale, fans took over the judging, voting for the winner by phone and online. Aikin received the majority of the 1.5 million votes.

Prior to the finale, Aikin returned to her alma mater. In a jam-packed Columbia Center, she sang a medley of songs, thanked the community for their support and signed autographs.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” Aikin said at the event, “If I’m so chosen to be ‘Sunday Best,’ I’m excited and ready. “

With the win, Aikin received a recording contract with Zomba Gospel, a new car and $300,000 tagged for community improvement, which she plans to donate to her church, Christ Life Center Church in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, and to other local charities.

“It has been a faith walk,” Aikin said. “You just don’t know what the next step is going to be, but you are just trusting in God that you know he’s going to order every one of the steps.”

Born and raised in Tacoma, Aikin is an emergency room nurse in the area and is the daughter of retired PLU nursing professor Shirley Aikin.

Combating poverty and violence around the world

By: Krista Gunstone '09

Kris Rocke (right) with leaders of a transition home in Nairobi, Kenya, that works with street kids who have been orphaned by AIDS.

When Kris Rocke ’85, the founder of the Center for Transforming Mission, describes the typical location where his organization does its work, he identifies two key indicators: poverty and violence.

The Tacoma-based CTM is a nonprofit international leadership development organization that provides training to those who work with high-risk youth and families. In the United States, it operates in 14 cities. The organization also works in Central America, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Thailand, Romania and India. Currently, CTM is working to help the growing gang problems in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“We think grace is like water,” Rocke said. “It runs downhill and pools up in the lowest places. So, if you want lots of grace, then you have to look in the low places.”

Through contacts in Guatemala, Rocke created a Web store called that sells local coffee called Blue Note and art created by leaders at CTM.  All of the proceeds pay for their work around the world.

Rocke also has enlisted the help of other Lutes. Joel Zylstra ’05 and spouse, Amanda Halverson Zylstra ’04, are CTM interns in Nairobi, Kenya, a city riddled with poverty, and more recently, violence over the country’s elections.

“We’re not just dealing with hurting people,” Rocke said. “We’re addressing the systems that are producing the conditions that are so chronic in these places.”
After leaving PLU in the mid-80s, Rocke earned a Master’s of Divinity at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He later received a doctorate from Seattle’s Bakke Graduate University of Ministry. Rocke lives in Tacoma with his wife and two sons.

“It was PLU, Bakke Graduate University, Eastern Seminary and all these other places that gave me the opportunity,” Rocke said.

Photo top: Marguerite Samms '88 says her Nurse of the Year recognition is a testament to the value of teamwork.