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Kari Plog '11

Fans holding Coach Dickerson face cutouts at PLU men's basketball vs Linnfield, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)
Attaway Lutes 1024 427 Kari Plog '11

Attaway Lutes

Emotions ran high for senior Brandon Lester in his final basketball game at Pacific Lutheran University.

Lester and his teammates fought hard through a lingering double-digit deficit against Linfield College. The Lutes never took the lead that night, and eventually fell to the Wildcats 80-72.

But, despite the score and the frustrations that accompanied it, Lester proved to be the kind of player head coach Steve Dickerson expects first and foremost, basketball game or not.

When an opposing player took a hard fall late in the second half, Lester offered a hand up without hesitation.

That’s the culture Dickerson has built at PLU. Lester’s basketball career might be over, but the positive lessons he learned on the team have “prepared me for the rest of my life,” he said.


Learn more about the program Dickerson has helped build for the past 14 years.

So, Dickerson, who retires in May after a 46-year coaching career, didn’t talk much about the scoreboard when he sat in his office the following Monday reflecting on his final game.

“I’ve always thought that the most important thing I do as a coach is help young people become better young people,” he said. “In the process, they become better basketball players.”

Dickerson hopes that message — one he’s worked to build for 14 years at PLU — continues after he’s gone. He started as an assistant, coaching alongside his former college roommate. He came to PLU after retiring from public-school coaching in Ohio — a run that included facing a young LeBron James, before the NBA megastar was drafted.

“I wanted to keep my toe in coaching,” he said.

Dickerson took over the top job at PLU three years later, “the last man standing” out of 100 applications, he said. “I’ve grown a lot as a coach and as a person being here,” he said.

Steve Dickerson's last game

(Photos by John Froschauer, PLU)

Dickerson didn’t know his journey would last this long; he says he took everything a year at a time. But PLU is a comforting place that makes it easy to stick around, he said. “It’s a place that grows on you. It might sound cliché, but it’s like one big family.”

That family mentality trickles down to the basketball team in transparent ways. Basketball players talk about their coach like he’s a father figure.

“He’s been supportive of me both on and off the court,” said junior Dylan Foreman, who says Dickerson helped him build confidence.

“He’s really kind of helped shape my life,” said sophomore Zac Webb.

And senior Erik Swartout says Dickerson’s team-first mentality has been ever-present throughout his five years as a student athlete at PLU. “He’s made a tremendous impact on me,” Swartout said.

One way Dickerson has taken his mentorship beyond the paint is through Real Life Wednesday, a program that brings professionals to campus to talk with his team about vocation and keys to success after graduation.

Dickerson acknowledges it’s not original (coaches at Ohio State and the University of Washington, to name a couple, have similar programs). But the focus is to give his players a glimpse into the lives of professionals who practice what PLU preaches. “The key is to bring in successful people and reinforce what we do,” Dickerson said.

And it works. He said the players learn valuable skills and build meaningful relationships through those networking opportunities. Dickerson proudly touts the near-perfect graduation rate and post-graduate success of his former players.

Despite their success after moving on from college, Dickerson says many of them stay in touch. He attends alumni weddings and sends hand-written letters to acknowledge their major milestones.

After the Lutes’ last game Feb. 17, basketball alumni from all over gathered to honor their coach. Former players traveled from San Francisco, Portland, the Tri-Cities and elsewhere to send him off right. Some purchased T-shirts bearing Dickerson’s likeness, with one of several team mottos on the back: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

“I’ve always thought that the most important thing I do as a coach is help young people become better young people. In the process, they become better basketball players.”
– Steve Dickerson

Dickerson said the outpouring of support overwhelmed him well after the reunion ended; he says he’s still processing it all. “My greatest accomplishment is that nobody asked me to leave,” he quipped. “I’ve always left (jobs) on my own terms.”

Except for last year.

Dickerson initially planned to end his career after the 2016 season. But some folks, including five grateful juniors (now seniors), had other plans. “They asked me to come back,” Dickerson said. “I’m very glad I did.”

So, Dickerson is mostly leaving on his own terms. A celebration May 6 at the Washington State History Museum formally sent him off before his last day on campus May 31 (even though he’s not much for pomp and circumstance).

As for the future of the basketball program, Dickerson hopes for more of the same: “Keep turning out great people,” he said. “It’s a good place.”

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Baby Steps

Back then, it was just another class project.

Cause Haun ’93, pretending to be CEO of a shoe company in a business class at Pacific Lutheran University, was tasked with critically analyzing what would set her brand apart. Quality is key, she determined: better materials and better pay for her imaginary employees.

Two decades later — sitting in the headquarters of the actual shoe company she created, surrounded by its very real employees and adorable, tiny shoes — Haun says her initial business philosophy remains.

“Quality always wins the day,” she said.

Quality is what Haun searched for when she dreamed up the idea to sell children’s shoes, upon realizing the market didn’t cater to moms like her who wanted trendy, healthy footwear for their babies.

“I had no training in podiatry, in fashion, in design. I just knew the shoes were good for my kid’s feet and I would want to buy them. It was just about the product.”
– Cause Haun ’93

And quality is what swiftly landed See Kai Run shoes, named after Haun’s son, on Nordstrom’s shelves not long after the company launched in 2004. “I’ll never forget that moment,” she said of getting the phone call from the luxury retailer, known in part for its shoe selection.

Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising, had spotted the shoes on the feet of one of the pint- sized guests at a dinner party, Haun said.

That word-of-mouth success is indicative of See Kai Run’s history. The company unexpectedly started with a leisurely trip to China and a frustrated mom.

At that time, Haun was struggling to find suitable footwear for her son. Medical professionals widely agreed that “barefoot was best” for babies, Haun said, but the market lacked footwear options that offered flexibility akin to bare feet. The shoes that did exist couldn’t withstand the elements in the family’s rainy home in the Pacific Northwest.

Cause Haun, standing in the See Kai Run headquarters in Bothell, holds an image of one of the first shoes she designed. (Photo by John Froschauer/PLU)

Then, Haun stumbled upon well-crafted, flexible, rubber-soled shoes that fit the bill during a China trip to visit her husband’s family. So, the couple filled a suitcase full of shoes and brought them home to test the market.

“I remind him every night that it was my idea,” Haun quipped.

Once the shoes started flying off the shelves of consignment shops, they quickly realized the product’s potential.

They developed a partnership with a mom-and-pop manufacturer in China to produce the shoes, the result of a cold-call to a number on a shoe box. They got permission to build upon the original shoe design and incorporate See Kai Run’s first logo — their son’s footprint from the hospital flanked by the company’s name he inspired.

“It was a very small financial investment,” Haun said. “I’m very risk averse.”

Once the operation was off the ground, she brought the shoes to small boutiques around the region. Once more, they flew off the shelves.

Haun graduated to trade shows, where a sales representative from California picked up the products and sold them up and down the coast of the Golden State. Soon, Haun said, moms were asking about the shoes on message boards.

“Then, it took off like nobody’s business,” she said.

Well, it took off like Haun’s business. She couldn’t keep up with the fax machine tracking new orders at her home; eventually, the orders no longer fit in the basement.

“We had to make the leap of faith and get an actual warehouse,” she said. “Our house smelled of leather for months after the shoes left.”

The process of building the business was all learn-as-you-go. “People along the way were super friendly,” she said. “It’s a very helpful industry.”

That’s when the call from Nordstrom came, months after Haun’s messages to them went unanswered. She admits that her excitement about the opportunity was immediately followed by fear.

“I had no training in podiatry, in fashion, in design,” she said. “I just knew the shoes were good for my kid’s feet and I would want to buy them. It was just about the product.”

Despite her fear, Haun said See Kai Run has taught her that trusting your instincts goes a long way.

“I love getting across the message that you don’t need formal education in a venture to be successful,” said Haun, who studied international business and Chinese studies at PLU. “Learning as you go is fine.”

And her approach paid off. In addition to Nordstrom, companies such as Amazon, Zappos, Saks Fifth Avenue and other retailers sell See Kai Run shoes.

Haun believes the brand was successful for two reasons: the health benefits of the flexible materials and the urban, “mini-me” style of children’s shoes that parents wanted but struggled to find in the past.

Her children are too old for See Kai Run shoes now (Kai is 14, his younger brother, Ocean, is 11). In fact, Kai outgrew his namesake shoe faster than Haun hoped.

While Haun’s oldest was the catalyst for her inspiration, she didn’t develop the products specifically for her kids. The motivation to pursue the venture was simpler: “I’ve always been interested in finding a treasure.”

Until last year, See Kai Run used the same mom-and-pop manufacturer in China; they moved to a bigger one to accommodate higher volume production. The company quickly expanded from three full-time employees to a dozen, and Haun eventually sold it to a San Francisco- based investment firm. Her husband, Gang Chen, is a board member and the couple are part owners.

They aren’t involved in day-to-day operations, but Haun stops in at least once per season to look at shoes and visit employees. “Growing (the business) was super fun and super satisfying,” she said.

Now, Haun stays at home with her sons in West Seattle and is heavily involved in activism to combat gun violence and racism.

She’s most proud of the product. And in the spirit of her younger self, a shoe-company CEO in a PLU business class, she’s proud of See Kai Run’s consistency of quality:

“I’m just glad the product has only gotten better.”

William Davis at FabLab
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FabLab Tacoma

A guitar-playing robot plucks out the first few chords to the song “Here Comes the Sun.”

A retired Tacoma resident crafts high-end chef’s knives and fishing poles.

A group of college students venture into a world of virtual reality.

A pair of aspiring entrepreneurs designs a prototype for a new product they’re launching.

Creators can see it all within the walls of FabLab Tacoma, a makerspace about 7 miles from Pacific Lutheran University’s campus. And a Lute is one of the masterminds behind the innovative workshop that invites community members to learn, build and innovate.

“We’re a creative space for artists, tinkerers and entrepreneurs,” said William Davis, a FabLab co-founder who graduated from PLU with a degree in business management and marketing in 2006. “We provide the tools, we provide the knowledge, and we provide some of the resources to get ideas up and off the ground.”

Makerspaces aren’t new to the do-it- yourself landscape. But the for-profit approach employed by FabLab is young, Davis says.

Typically, makerspaces have been affiliated with universities and libraries. FabLab is membership-based. Users pay a monthly fee to use the equipment, which includes 3-D printers, a laser cutter, AutoCAD software, computer-controlled sewing machines, woodworking and welding tools, virtual reality modules and more.

One recent evening, students from the University of Washington Tacoma had the opportunity to test some of the tools. The title of the beginning engineering course was fitting: “How to Make Almost Anything.”

Davis says that’s just what FabLab offers, the ability to let your imagination and creativity run wild (safely, of course). Every time makers come into the space, he says, their minds explode with ideas.

“We have an awesome community here,” he said. “This is a magnet for interesting people.”

Davis says the idea for FabLab came together after a lifetime of tinkering with his godfather, Steve Tibbitts.

“Steve is a serial entrepreneur,” Davis said.

Tibbitts, another FabLab co-founder and an electrical engineer, attended a conference in Silicon Valley, California, several years ago. During his downtime, he visited a massive commercial makerspace and immediately thought something similar would thrive in Tacoma, a do-it-yourself community full of creative minds.

He wasn’t wrong. Since it opened in 2012, FabLab has grown to serve roughly 100 members who sell products on Etsy and at public markets, among other venues. And then there are members who graduated to top-selling status with retailers such as Amazon.

Dustin Smith, a founder of the Tacoma-based company C4 Labs, says his business started as an idea and a prototype in FabLab’s workspace.

“We developed our product with their tools,” Smith said. That product is one of the best-selling cases for the Raspberry Pi, a popular series of single-board computers that promote computer-programming use and education. “I was in there quite a few hours.”

As far as Davis is concerned, “a few hours” is an understatement. “They practically camped out here,” he said of Smith and his business partner.

Smith says FabLab and other makerspaces are vital to the fabric of an innovative community.

PLU Alumni Billy Davis in the FabLab that he is co-owner of in Tacoma, Monday, March 27, 2017. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)
PLU Alumni Billy Davis in the FabLab that he is co-owner of in Tacoma
FabLab in Tacoma, Monday, March 27, 2017. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

“We have an awesome community here. This is a magnet for interesting people.”
– William Davis ’06

“It gives people access to tools they might not otherwise get to experience or become familiar with,” he said. “Before FabLab, I had only seen a laser cutter. It was at FabLab that I became familiar with one.”

Carbon fiber at Fablab in Tacoma
Skateboard at Fablab in Tacoma
Billy Davis at Fablab in Tacoma

Davis said FabLab has community partnerships with organizations such as Tacoma Art Museum and UWT. He hopes to expand those partnerships, including to PLU.

“As we get more and more urbanized, it’s tough for people to get the space they need,” Davis said, especially for creating. He said even folks with the most basic skill set can benefit from the tools available at FabLab.

“I knew nothing,” he said. “When people start to realize how these tools work together, it’s really amazing.”

For example, someone with a passion for remote-controlled cars could come to FabLab and build one. The 4,000-square-foot space has the AutoCAD software to create the model, a 3-D printer to build a prototype based on that model and all the other necessary tools to bring the concept to life.

FabLab also is in good company outside Tacoma. The Obama administration launched an initiative called A Nation of Makers to promote making culture, Davis said. He and Tibbitts were invited to the White House as part of the effort, along with representatives from other makerspaces around the country, to collaborate and discuss the future of the maker movement.

Davis said the future of the initiative is unclear, given the newly elected president. But he said the experience showed him that FabLab isn’t alone in its innovative journey.

“It was huge to know we weren’t a single voice screaming in the wind,” he said.

PLU Professor Leon Reisberg has brought his education students to FabLab. He says many schools are embracing making culture in K-12 education, and aspiring teachers benefit from seeing the educational components at work in the makerspace.

“It opens my students’ eyes to possibilities,” Reisberg said. “It fits really well with project-based learning. Children can learn so many different skills.”

Seeing the cutting-edge infusion of technology in education helps PLU students think about new ways to incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) into learning, he added.

Additionally, Reisberg said makerspaces such as FabLab help address the digital divide that often exists between socioeconomic groups.

“There are people who have access to all kinds of technology, and there are other people who don’t see technology modeled as a tool,” he said. “FabLab opens the door so this kind of opportunity is more available, readily, to all people.”

Mark Mulder, assistant professor of business, also brought PLU students to work with FabLab in 2013. They helped explore marketing opportunities for the makerspace.

Mulder said Davis is a great example of a Lute with a true sense of vocation.

“He has sought different professional positions with major corporations, while serving the community through FabLab and sharing his passion for a space that is so important to this community,” he said.

Davis, standing among the scattered materials of past and ongoing projects, said he now spends much of his time working his day job at Costco. But his work at FabLab, which still includes teaching some classes, energizes his creativity.

Davis says he often feels like he could build just about anything. All anyone needs is an idea, and FabLab can provide the rest — from the tools to make it happen to the people with the know-how. “We can hook you up with someone who tried, someone who failed and someone who succeeded,” he said.

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Spice for Life

Standing on a slope at Paradise, knee-deep in snow, John de Mars ’09 was exactly where he wanted to be.

“I love it here,” he said of Mount Rainier, as thick clouds and wet snowflakes engulfed the view of the Cascades behind him. “If I could spend all my time here, I would.”

He says outdoor adventure means grabbing the minimum amount of gear possible and trying something new.

“It’s for the view, it’s for the feeling,” said de Mars, who says he has a religious moment every time he’s in nature. “This is my church.”

The mountain isn’t just where de Mars plays — it’s also where he works. It’s where he spent a lot of time developing the latest product for his hot sauce company, de Mars’s LLC, which he’s built from the ground up over the past several years — with help, in part, from a business competition at Pacific Lutheran University.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

Expedition Sauce is hot sauce designed for adventure — a portable alternative to the company’s flagship brand, Rooster Sauce — inspired by its creator’s sense of adventure.

“It’s a unique way to carry gourmet flavor with you when you’re outside and on the go,” de Mars said of the spicy sauce in a squeeze tube. “The convenience of having it in a tube is that it’s lightweight and it doesn’t break.”

— John de Mars

Expedition Sauce packs a strong punch of flavor. It’s unlike any of the name brands favored by spicy-food connoisseurs: the concentrated spice lingers long after tasting even the smallest portion and, as suggested by the list of ingredients on the back of the bottle, the flavor leads with fresh hot peppers.
“It’s great on staple foods,” de Mars said, such as eggs, burritos or sandwiches.

It also livens bland foods often used by climbers and others braving the elements.

“When you’re outside you have to eat,” he said. “In the market there’s very little options for food that tastes good when you’re in the elements. The Expedition Sauce was a solution to that.”

After his recent hike at Paradise, de Mars cooked up a dehydrated chicken risotto meal near a beautiful, raging waterfall. A few tablespoons of Expedition Sauce made the dish more delectable.

“We’ve used it on a lot of meals up here,” de Mars said. “It’s kind of like its home.”

He dreamed up the idea for his business during his first year at Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia, before hot sauce was his star product. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart,” de Mars said. “It seemed like a natural fit for me.”

So, he tabled law school and started researching. He stumbled across an article about the fastest growing industries, and hot sauce reigned supreme in the world of condiments.

He developed a recipe — after about a half dozen test runs, and multiple rounds of taste testing with friends — and built a business model.

Finally, de Mars measured the company’s success by entering it in PLU’s annual Business Plan Competition through the university’s School of Business, where he earned his degree in finance.

The competition helps PLU students and recent graduates gain valuable entrepreneurial skills. De Mars competed via Skype from Virginia, while his business partner presented to the judges in person. The pair took second place, earning a cash prize and the confidence to take the idea further. The money helped launch the first wave of marketing for Rooster Sauce, the company’s inaugural product.

He said it was an eye opener that “people can respond positively to this product.”

Now, the company distributes to more than 400 clients, including Cost Plus World Market, Haggen and local outfits such as Tacoma Boys, a grocer just 10 miles from PLU’s campus. The most recent addition to the list: REI.

“We really designed it with REI in mind,” de Mars said of Expedition Sauce. “We’ve been knocking on their door for a while with it.”

The recipe sticks to its roots as the company continues to expand. “Even as we’ve grown batch sizes, it’s remained stable,” de Mars said.

His products are available through campus restaurants — at Old Main Market and 208 Garfield — bringing his journey full circle, to the place where he learned to embrace his passions and learned his limits as a leader.

“I challenged myself to see what kind of workload I could take on,” de Mars said of PLU. “I tested my redlines.”

“I challenged myself to see what kind of workload I could take on,” de Mars said of PLU. “I tested my redlines.

Among his college commitments, de Mars played tennis and served as president in student government, a fitting extracurricular for the business and political science double major. “I was busy there,” he said.

De Mars continues to work with a business advisor to improve his business model. He says a new business owner can’t be successful without a mentor. The key to carrying success long term is identifying goals and building internal systems to help a business become sustainable.

The next step in that vision includes major sporting goods retailers and international sales. So far, he’s met with representatives from companies in Asia, Europe and Canada, thanks to a Seattle- based group that connects local businesses with international buyers.

“A lot of people can’t tell you what their goals are,” de Mars said. “I had a pretty clear vision.”

John de Mars delivers Expedition Sauce to Whittaker Mountaineering near Mount Rainier. (Photo by John Froschauer/PLU)

“That’s been really valuable,” de Mars said. “It’s been a huge learning process with each country that’s a potential buyer.”

The ultimate goal for de Mars is to create a business that will self-sustain and subsidize his adventures outside of work.

“It’s a lifestyle company,” he said.

His lifestyle is a perfect match for the product he sells. In addition to summiting Mount Rainier six times and climbing peaks around the world, de Mars has participated in the Seattle to Portland bike ride and RAMROD — Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day. He’s also a painter and active in martial arts.

Additionally, de Mars speaks Chinese conversationally, and co-authored a bilingual children’s book series titled “Ping Pong Panda.” The first book in the series came out two years ago; the second was released this year.

All of his endeavors feed his passions (quite literally, when it comes to hot sauce), something everyone should lead with when it comes to vocation, he says.

“I really believed that creating my own enterprise and my own business would allow me the freedom around my own schedule and passions,” he said.

Expedition Sauce

Currently, de Mars works between 20 and 30 hours per week on his business. He hopes to reduce that number to about three. In the meantime, he continues to make plenty of time to explore outdoors — with a full water bottle, snacks and, of course, his hot sauce.

De Mars says he never takes a trip without the stuff. And the label on the back of the bottle suggests other adventurers might develop the same habit.

It reads: “Warning: You will take this everywhere!”

The donated Thorniley type and printing press collection moved into PLU, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)
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Thorniley Collection of Antique Type

Jessica Spring knew the perfect catchword existed. She has a photograph of it — three letters, cast together on one decorative body of metal. The catch? She had to sift through thousands of pieces in dozens of type cases to find it.

A tiny word, “the” — a half-inch square among an expanse of metallic fonts. But, this wasn’t just any “the;” it was the perfect “the.”

“I confess getting a wee bit fixated once I get an idea,” Spring said of her printmaking process.

Thankfully, her fixation didn’t get too carried away. After moving on with her project using a less-than-perfect alternative, she stumbled upon the piece she longed for.

“Of course, it was too small after all that,” she quipped. “It’s either patience and endurance or we are crazy. I’m still not sure.”

Thousands of keystrokes on a laptop fall short of capturing the essence of the Thorniley Collection of Antique Type, which arrived at its new home on Pacific Lutheran University’s campus earlier this year in the form of a massive donation from WCP Solutions, formerly West Coast Paper.

The collection of typefaces, printing presses and more — which appraised at $311,330 — has elevated PLU’s printing collection to the largest in the Pacific Northwest.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

“The best comparison is really the needle in a haystack,” Spring said of her persistent search for the perfect “the” within the vast collection.

It took several 53-foot trucks to transport 43 cabinets filled with 24 cases each — amounting to millions of pieces of type that span centuries.

“It’s a museum dedicated to the art of the book,” said Mare Blocker, visiting assistant professor of art and design. “It’s a labor of love for the two of us.”

Workers deliver the Thorniley Collection

The other half of the loving duo is Spring, another visiting assistant professor in the department, who serves as manager of the Elliott Press. For three decades, PLU’s small private press in Ingram Hall has provided a hands-on workshop for students in the Publishing and Printing Arts Program (PPA).

“The Elliott Press was already an interesting complement in our department. Thorniley magnifies that,” said Heather Mathews, chair of art and design at PLU. “The press is a nice juncture between concerns of design and concerns of studio disciplines. This donation amplifies that significantly. The possibilities for students are that much greater.”

Spring says the addition of the Thorniley Collection builds upon PLU’s commitment to printmaking and book arts in the greater Tacoma community.

“Now we have type and presses of the same time period,” she said, showcasing a continuum of some of the earliest type to digital type. “It’s one thing to read about it, but to actually work with it, that’s pretty incredible.”

Solveig Robinson, director of the PPA program and associate professor of English, said the collection came to PLU “because we’re special.”

“We’re still the only program in North America that combines pre-professional studies, history of the book and publishing arts,” Robinson said. “We work closely with (the School of Arts and Communication) and English to make sure students are well rounded.”

Robinson vividly recalls the first time she saw the Thorniley Collection at its previous home at WCP Solutions in Kent.

She stepped into the room, sunlight glistening off the cabinets, and was struck speechless.

“People had known it was out there, but nobody knew how big it was,” Robinson said. “We absolutely stopped in our tracks. I just gasped.”

Spring invited Robinson that day in 2016, and neither of them anticipated at the time that roughly 90 percent of what they saw would eventually sit in the Wekell Gallery in the back of the PLU arts building.

But Teresa Russell knew for some time the collection needed a new home.

Elliott Press

Founded in 1982, the Elliott Press is a hands-on workshop for students in PLU’s Publishing and Printing Arts (PPA) Program and for others interested in the history and artistry of the printed word.

Russell is the third-generation owner of WCP Solutions and the daughter of Dick Abrams, who purchased the antique collection from its originator, William Thorniley, a friend and fellow printing arts enthusiast.

Russell said WCP has needed the space occupied by the collection for roughly five years.

“I didn’t want to sell it,” she said. “It didn’t seem right.”

Perfect home

Thorniley started his collection in 1909, after receiving his first printing press at the age of 10. Over time, as he traveled for work on the lookout for type, Thorniley’s collection grew to include pre-Civil War pieces from the deep south, Gold Rush-era fonts from California and discoveries spanning from Alaska to New England.

When Thorniley started to scope out opportunities to relocate his collection, he turned to Russell’s father. He initially courted the Smithsonian Institution, but the talks broke down. Ideally, Thorniley not only wanted to keep the collection in the Pacific Northwest, he wanted the new owner to use it.

So, Abrams purchased the collection in 1975. It stayed in Thorniley’s basement until he passed away in 1979. Russell said the crew in charge of moving it for her father had to take out a wall to remove all the pieces. “I would’ve liked to see that,” she said, laughing.

During its time with the paper company, the Thorniley Collection was used sporadically by locals of all ages. Students from elementary schools, Highline Community College and the University of Washington worked with the antique typefaces and equipment.

But Russell said use was infrequent. “It was treated more like a museum,” she said.

Now, PLU is expected to use the equipment regularly — more than it’s been used since Thorniley’s time.

“This is very intentional,” Russell stressed. Otherwise, she noted, pieces could rust or presses could freeze up.

Russell credits Carl Montford, a Seattle printer who restored one of the collection’s hand presses, with connecting her to PLU. “Carl introduced me to this book arts community in Tacoma,” she said.

Russell said PLU is the perfect home for the Thorniley Collection, and not just because the university made room for it. She said stewards at PLU have the expertise to know what should be on general display, what should be locked down and what pieces can be used daily.

Despite the obvious fit, Russell says she never anticipated the level of emotion the Thorniley Collection has inspired among Robinson, Spring, Blocker and others at PLU.

“I hope it’s used to teach and inspire another generation of craftspeople,” Russell said.

“And I hope it’s used in a way that preserves it.”

Endless discoveries

Blocker and Spring are hard at work cataloging Thorniley items, with the help of PLU students across many academic departments. The sooner they can organize the collection, the sooner they can open it up to the public, with the appropriate guidance and supervision.

Spring said it’s easy to spend hours in the gallery rummaging through type cases and inspecting the detail in the cuts and tiniest pieces of type.

“Every day is a new discovery,” she said.

The core of the collection is Victorian, but it includes more recent additions by Pacific Northwest printers that resulted in a continuum of the history of type.

“They all have stories,” Blocker said of each piece. “It’s pretty cool.”

Spring said many of the typefaces date back to the era defined as “artistic printing,” marked by ornamental type, unusual compositions and quirky embellishments used to create ephemera of everyday life.

Among the collection’s stars, she said, is a Washington Hand Press, the first iron hand press manufactured in the U.S. The collection also includes a Die-Engraving Press and steel dies, mostly monograms. The tools are used in a process known as stamping, or embossing. In addition, the collection includes one of a limited number of No. 2 Potter Proof presses that dates back to the early 1900s.

The collection also features wood and metal type — more than 1,300 typefaces introduced between 1690 and the 1930s. The metal type was cast in U.S. and European foundries, and features pin marks of origin — simple logos on the body.

The oldest types in the collection include Union Pearl, the oldest decorative English typeface that dates back to 1690; Harlequin, circa 1770; and Caslon Oldstyle, which belongs to a family of types distributed throughout the British Empire, including British North America where they were used to print the Declaration of Independence.

Some of the collection’s oldest type was cast in unusual sizes, pre-dating the industry’s effort to standardize toward the end of the 19th century.

Notable wood typefaces include Art Gothic, which debuted in 1887 with mixed reviews, and Mikado, some of which is celluloid and especially rare since the enameled pieces were only manufactured for roughly 15 years.

Also included in the wood type are a few chromatic faces, which were made to print two or more colors in tight register. And one incomplete font of 72-line type measures a foot tall.

The collection also came with typefaces in other languages, such as Chinese, which Blocker and Spring say likely will be incorporated into interdisciplinary education.

“A lot of this is super rare, a lot of it is in really good condition, and then there’s the sheer volume,” Blocker said.

The collection also serves as a resource for graphic designers. PLU’s Boge Library, which holds books on the history of calligraphy and typography, now houses some of the rarest type as well as an array of antique finishing tools for bookbinding.

More than a museum

The Thorniley Collection will not only invite PLU students from varying disciplines to learn about printmaking, but also members of the community.

Blocker is working to develop a summer program for Pierce County kids and their teachers. She wants local students to learn about book arts, and she hopes to show teachers how to incorporate printmaking and the art of the book into K-12 education.

Spring said the nonprofit Guild of Book Workers also will bring its annual conference to PLU in response to the relocation of the collection, to tour the Elliott Press and learn more about the Thorniley additions.

Dave Tribby, a longtime donor to the Elliott Press who lives in California, is an active member of the national organization American Amateur Press Association. He didn’t know about the Thorniley Collection until it came to PLU. Upon further research, Tribby said he’s excited to see it go to such a well respected printing arts program for regular use by the public, as opposed to sitting in cases at a museum.

“To be able to see the actual artifacts from that era when they were created, and not a modern reproduction, that’s interesting,” Tribby said.

Robinson hopes the major donation will attract others, including funds that could lead to a newer, bigger campus building to house the Thorniley presses and type. She estimates the donation of the collection — which rivals some she’s seen in museums in Europe — has at least quadrupled PLU’s letterpress resources.

“We should be a magnet for more,” Robinson said. “The more you have, the more you draw.”

In the meantime, PLU students in PPA and graphic design classes have already started using the collection for printing projects. Robinson says she’s excited that students who are interested in the history of the book can see and work with type and presses described in their textbooks.

“It’s a museum dedicated to the art of the book. It’s a labor of love for the two of us.”
– Mare Blocker

“It takes them back in time, as opposed to reading about it,” she said. “You can see how the styles and technology have changed. I am so overwhelmed that these are available to our program.”

Russell, the donor praised by so many at PLU, says printmaking is a nostalgic art that she hopes will continue to thrive in Tacoma and beyond.

“No matter what you do digitally, there’s no tactile feel to it,” Russell said.

She believes the Thorniley Collection could create a central hub at PLU — a focal point that is missing in the local printing arts community. Russell said the collection has potential to add vitality to PLU’s already renowned program.

“Word is out,” she said.

No matter its potential for growth, the collection already provides endless possibilities for students and artists at the university, Spring said.

“Printers use the term ‘out of sorts’ when we run out of letters,” she said. “We won’t ever again at PLU.”

Bonnie Nelson '08 during her time in Mongolia working with the Peace Corps. (Photo courtesy of Nelson)
Bonnie Nelson ’08 1024 427 Kari Plog '11

Bonnie Nelson ’08

TACOMA, WASH. (Feb. 22, 2017)- Bonnie Nelson ’08 didn’t always plan on joining the Peace Corps. But when she met a returned volunteer in graduate school who helped her learn more about the organization, her plans changed.

“It was through conversations with her about her experiences and growth through the program that I decided to apply,” said Nelson, who taught English for two years in Baruun-Urt, Mongolia, starting in 2011.

Pacific Lutheran University hopes to create similar connections through its new Peace Corps Prep Certificate Program, which launches this semester.

Beyond course requirements and hands-on work hours, Peace Corps Prep will include speaking events with Peace Corps alumni, including one that precedes the third biennial Chris Stevens Memorial Lecture on March 1.

Nelson and three other Peace Corps alumni, who are also Lutes, will speak on a panel at 3:45 p.m. in the Scandinavian Cultural Center before the evening lecture, which features Shamil Idriss, president and CEO of Search for Common Ground.

PLU’s new program will help ensure that Lutes interested in service work will meet all the necessary requirements to apply for service with the Peace Corps and other international or domestic service programs.

And this is just the next step for PLU and the Peace Corps. More than 260 Lutes have served in the Peace Corps alone, and even more have joined service programs such as AmeriCorps, Lutheran Volunteer Corps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps. PLU is one of three universities in Washington state to offer a Peace Corps Prep Certificate Program.

“I think fits so well with the mission and PLU’s focus on care and creating a community of care for others,” said Katherine Wiley, assistant professor of anthropology and director of the new program. “But also I think social justice issues, diversity and sustainability is a big part of the Peace Corps.”

Wiley added that the program will help make the transition easier for students who are already on track to join the Peace Corps or other service organizations.

The decision to bring this program to campus was easy. After mapping out the Peace Corps certificate requirements, Tamara Williams and Joel Zylstra — directors of the Wang Center for Global Education and the Center for Community Engagement and Service, respectively — found that some students were already completing the program just based off their majors.

“It was global studies, environmental studies and Hispanic studies,” Zylstra said. “When there is overlap like that it’s kind of like ‘why not?’”

Zylstra and Williams were approached by the Peace Corps in 2015, in an effort to reach out to universities that have a history of service. Over the next two years, Zylstra and Williams tweaked the program for PLU, had it approved by faculty and the Board of Regents. Then, they brought Wiley into the fold to direct the program and opened applications in February.

“Our initial reservation was we don’t want to be exclusive to the Peace Corps. But there is something about the name and the brand of the Peace Corps that I think is appealing to students,” Zylstra said. “Then when we looked at the criteria, it just made sense. These are things we want from PLU students.”

Bonnie Nelson '08 during her time in the Peace Corps in Baruun-Urt, Mongolia. (Photo courtesy of Nelson)
Bonnie Nelson '08
During her time in the Peace Corps in Baruun-Urt, Mongolia. (Photo courtesy of Nelson)

Wiley was an obvious choice to lead the program. Not only is she a faculty member who can work directly with the professors on campus, but she is a Peace Corps alumna herself.

She taught English for two years in Mauritania, a large country on the northwest coast of Africa. Later, Wiley returned for doctoral work. She maintains connections with communities there.

“One thing I learned in the Peace Corps was that relationship building and spending time with people was something I was really passionate about,” Wiley said. “And to some extent that is what cultural anthropologists do, we study contemporary human life.”

Now, Wiley will help PLU students coordinate the courses they need and find internships or volunteer opportunities in Peace Corps sectors, such as education, health or environment.

“It will be a way to to dig into the hard questions, like what does it mean to be privileged people from the United States to go ‘help people elsewhere’ and how can we do that in an ethical and engaged way,” Wiley said. “I wish I could have done something like this when I went to school. I would have entered Mauritania better prepared for service than I did.”

Some of the best advice Nelson, one of the alumni panelists, can offer students interested in Peace Corps or related service is simple — listen.

“Listen to the stories from community members about the history of an area, listen to how people respond to your own privileges that you may take into a situation, and listen to yourself when you are challenged or frustrated when things aren’t going exactly as planned,” she said.

And that is what Wiley, Zylstra and Williams hope to accomplish with this new program, a chance to give students tools to listen and critically engage in service.

“I think this aligns well with PLU’s vision for global education,” Zylstra said, “it’s not about getting people to study abroad but it’s about how do you raise consciousness about where we fit into a global society and I think this is one more helpful mechanism to do that.”

Interested in Peace Corps Prep?

Contact Katherine Wiley at or visit the Peace Corps Prep website for more information.

Atlantis Rising board game created by PLU's Galen Ciscell, Friday, April 7, 2017. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)
Discovery 1024 427 Kari Plog '11


For Galen Ciscell, graduate school was a time for work and play, but not in the way you’d expect.

His work earned him a doctorate degree and, subsequently, a role as visiting assistant professor of sociology at Pacific Lutheran University.

His play — which turned out to be a lot of work, too — earned him the title of board game inventor.

Ciscell created the cooperative board game “Atlantis Rising,” which was released by Z-Man Games in 2012 after being accepted upon first pitch.

“I’ve been into gaming since I was a kid,” Ciscell said.

His personal collection of board games amounts to about 200, including expansions, and many of them are displayed prominently in his home.

When Ciscell decided to create a board game in 2011, his plan was simple: “I’m just going to make a game that I would want to play,” he told himself.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

He wanted it to be cooperative. He wanted it to take up a relatively short period of time. He wanted it to have a fantasy theme. “Atlantis Rising” has all three components.

In the game, each player is a citizen of the stricken island Atlantis. The objective is to save the island, before it sinks, by way of a mystical portal. Players also must contend with the escalating threat of their Athenian enemies.

Plato, the philosopher who documented the only account of Atlantis, is quoted in the rulebook. “That bit of literature and philosophy actually informed how I designed the game,” Ciscell said. “The players all win or lose the game together.”

Unfortunately, players were on the losing side one recent game night at Ciscell’s Tacoma home.

“It’s hopeless! There’s no way we’re going to win,” Andrew Austin ’06 said.

Still, wine kept flowing and dice kept rolling as Austin and several other Lutes gathered around the board for a good time with good friends.

Austin and his wife, Kaarin Praxel Austin ’07, brought their 6-week- old baby to the game night, a regular tradition. It was a balancing act keeping her comfortable between turns, but they managed.

Praxel Austin, director of gift planning at PLU, said the group has been getting together for at least three years. Even as babies are born and lives are increasingly busy, they are all good at sticking to the every-other-week schedule, she said.

“It’s half because of the games and half because of the people,” Praxel Austin said.

With crying babies around, the games take a little longer to get through, she acknowledged, but “that’s part of the story of our gaming family.”

Andrea Shea ’06, an academic advisor at PLU, and Amanda Sweger, associate professor of theatre, also joined the fun.

“I only pretend to know this game,” Sweger said jokingly, as Ciscell explained strategy. “We are up against the gods!”

While the cooperative game relied on everyone, Ciscell was leading the way as the expert.

“I did design the game,” he said, laughing, as some of his fellow gamers questioned him on the rules.

Ciscell says his wife, Chelsie, deserves credit for sparking his inventive spirit. She encouraged him to join her in setting a personal goal to accomplish within a year, while Ciscell was in graduate school at Colorado State University.

Within that year, after what Ciscell calls a “very scientific” data-collection process of playing his game about 100 times with friends-turned-critics, “Atlantis Rising” was finished.

Ciscell used his contacts from gaming conventions and sold the game to the first company he pitched it to, New York-based Z-Man Games. The company hired a designer from the Netherlands to create the tiles and other pieces.

Atlantis Rising

(Photos by John Froschauer, PLU)

Several thousand copies sold during the game’s circulation, Ciscell said. It even sold internationally in countries such as France, Belgium and Canada.

“There are copies of it all over the world,” he said. It’s no longer in circulation, but copies are available to purchase online, he added.

Ciscell said board game companies are much like book publishers — they look for inventors, pay an advance for production and provide a cut of the profits. “It’s not a lot of money,” Ciscell said, adding that he made about $1 for every copy sold at the retail price of $60. “I did not do it for the money.”

The most fun aspect of the process was play testing, he said, especially with people playing it for the first time. “Seeing people have fun playing it,” he said. “That’s the best part.”

Despite all the hours spent playing in the past, Ciscell still plays “Atlantis Rising” semi-regularly on game nights, primarily with folks who have never played before.

His advice for aspiring game inventors: “Design a game you love. You’re gonna be playing it a lot.”

And, of course: “play test, play test, play test.”