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Kari Plog '11

Panayotis (Panago) Horton '12
Strong Link of Three 1024 532 Kari Plog '11

Strong Link of Three



Panayotis (Panago) Horton ’12 tattooed a three-link chain on his forearm: one link each for himself, his mother and his brother. The family emigrated from Greece when he was just 2 years old. They were his rock.

And although the Pacific Lutheran University graduate suddenly lost his life in 2017, his family says the chain won’t be broken.

“The bond between us remains unmatched,” LeRoy Horton ’03 wrote in a tribute following his younger brother’s death due to complications from epilepsy and a subsequent infection at the hospital. “The three of us served as a tight-knit unit to survive life in a strange land.”

But ask anyone, and they’ll tell you Panago didn’t just survive in his new home. He helped make it better.

“He always liked to help people,” Georgia Horton said of her son. “He was a very, very good person.”

At the root of his advocacy was a passion for access to education for marginalized communities in Tacoma. After graduating from PLU, Panago joined AmeriCorps. He served at Tacoma’s Giaudrone and Jason Lee middle schools, his mother said. Both schools educate students from a diverse socioeconomic spectrum.

“He became really involved with the children,” Georgia said. “It broke his heart that some of the students wouldn’t have the school supplies they needed throughout the whole year. He always bought school supplies with his own money.”

The family drew from Panago’s passion for his memorial, requesting attendees donate school supplies and money for school lunches in lieu of flowers or gifts.

But they knew the giving couldn’t stop there.

“When you lose somebody, especially your child — your son, your daughter — you lose yourself,” Georgia said. “The biggest fear that a parent has when they lose a child is that their life was for nothing.”

So, to guarantee Panago’s lasting legacy, his family and friends came together to create a memorial foundation to help minority high-school students in Tacoma pay for college.

Panago’s Legacy Scholarship aims to help two or three students each year. Georgia said she’s working with the Tacoma-based program, Ready to Rise, to identify scholarship recipients.

The program is spearheaded by Degrees of Change, an organization that works to extend the reach of the Act Six initiative, which fully funded Panago’s education at PLU.

Awardees must embody Panago’s values, including a deep passion for social justice.

Tim Herron, Degrees of Change president, says Panago lived the Act Six mission, particularly after his time at PLU. He “poured his heart and energy into middle school kids” across the Hilltop neighborhood in Tacoma, Herron said.

“Panago embodied the Act Six mission of homegrown, service-minded leaders working together for equity and justice in their home communities,” Herron added.

Jonathan Jackson ’12, a fellow member of PLU’s first Act Six cadre who sits on the PLU Alumni Board, says Panago possessed an “others before self” mindset. His friend wasn’t always front and center, but rather would “lead from the middle.”

“You might not have known he was involved with something,” Jackson said. “But he was there shaking things up and making things happen.”

Panago fought for social justice, participating in protests against police brutality. Jackson acknowledged that he and his friend navigated difficult realities together at PLU, a white-dominated space where they dealt with micro-aggressions from members of the community throughout their educational experience. Still, he says Panago was quick to listen to many perspectives.

Angela Pierce ’12, another fellow Act Six scholar from the cadre, says Panago approached everything — at PLU and beyond — with quiet reflection. He put school and family first.

Jackson and Pierce are both involved with the rollout of the scholarships. But they play a supportive role, letting the family take the lead.

Panago’s life after PLU was one of self-discovery. The biology major opted to veer from his original plan to become a dentist. In his final months, he decided to pursue law school and was preparing to take the LSAT.

He was there shaking things up and making things happen.

- Jonathan Jackson '12

Panago embraced healthy living, spending time at the gym and dropping weight. Despite his best efforts, his health took a turn in 2013. That’s when he experienced his first seizure, his mother said, the first in a years-long battle with epilepsy.

He started taking medication, but finding specialists and other resources was challenging.

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. The chronic disorder, characterized by unpredictable seizures, doesn’t frequently lead to death. But it can cause other health problems — and public perception of people with epilepsy often creates bigger problems than the actual seizures.

Panago started having more frequent seizures around Christmas 2016. It wasn’t until July that he was able to schedule an appointment with a neurologist. The appointment was scheduled for September, just a few weeks following Panago’s last seizure Aug. 14.

“We were unprepared,” Georgia said. “The cards were stacked against him.”

Georgia hopes her son’s story will raise awareness about epilepsy.

Panago’s loved ones embraced his fighting spirit during his final days, which were spent in an induced coma. “We did our best to fight for him because we knew he always did and would fight for us,” his brother wrote in his tribute.

They continue to fight each day, with his memory lingering in all they do — from online fundraisers for the Epilepsy Foundation to marches for equal rights.

“We can keep Panayotis Alexandros Horton in our world by thinking and speaking our memories as long as we live,” his brother wrote.

That’s how his family ensures their three-linked chain will never break, and — in Panago’s words — will carry on:

“I am from a strong link of three,” Panago wrote in his “I Am” poem, in a PLU class. “From a chain that continues to grow.”

People paddling down the river in canoes participating in the "Power Paddle to Puyallup"
Power Paddle to Puyallup 1024 532 Kari Plog '11

Power Paddle to Puyallup



Before Kelly Hall ’16 and the rest of her Samish canoe family paddled their final strokes through the Hylebos Waterway, Hall did something no one in her tribe had done for many years.

“I’m the first tribal member in decades to speak the language while coming to shore,” she said during a break from annual canoe journey festivities.

Hall, a language specialist for the Samish tribe, says she’s witnessed an increasing number of people speaking their native language — both during last summer’s Power Paddle to Puyallup and in everyday life.

“It’s really powerful,” she said.

Hall grew up on traditional Samish lands, ancestral areas around Anacortes, Washington, and the San Juan Islands. She first connected with her tribe in 2003, but for a long time didn’t embrace all that came with her Native American identity.

It wasn’t until a decade later, through her studies at Pacific Lutheran University, that Hall reconnected with the Samish on a deeper level. A class on myths, rituals and symbols with her mentor — Suzanne Crawford O’Brien, professor of religion and culture — got Hall thinking about her own culture more than ever before.

Hall began working with the group that established the Native American and Indigenous Studies program at PLU, a venture that led to networking with local indigenous leaders. Hall even worked with her current Samish supervisor for her language studies, part of the curriculum in her individualized interdisciplinary major in Native American and indigenous studies.

“I’m the first Samish member to get college credit for studying my own language,” Hall said.

Her academic journey culminated in a passion for cultural revitalization. The seed that was planted with Hall’s initial research in college became a major part of her daily life.

And it was on display this past summer on the Salish Sea and in the canoe journey camp at Chief Leschi School in Puyallup.

This year’s host for the journey, which allows participating tribes to share and revitalize their native cultures, was the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. It’s the first time in 20 years the Puyallups have hosted the event, one that’s grown from few canoes to more than 100 this year, Hall said.

“It’s medicine for people. Our tribal communities have experienced lots of trauma,” she said. “This event brings a lot of healing.”

In potlatch tradition, canoe journey hosts provide lodging, food and other accommodations for tribes that travel from as far north as Alaska. They also provide massive tent structures for protocol, the ceremonial sharing of songs, dances and stories with the participating communities.

“It’s a huge honor and investment to host something like this,” Hall said.

For Hall, the cultural exchange is especially meaningful for the Samish, since the tribe’s people are typically very scattered. When they come together in large numbers to honor their shared culture, Hall says she feels at home.

“When we’re out there singing our songs on the water, there’s a feeling of interconnectedness between everything,” Hall said. “When we sing songs and speak our language on the water, it brings life into (our canoe and paddles) and carries us safely to our next stop.”

Canoe journey is one of many ways Hall is boosting a cultural resurgence for the Samish and other indigenous groups.


Native American and Indigenous Studies Program

Students in the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program at PLU don’t just learn about indigenous peoples, they learn with and from them. With a focus on local cultures, societies and language at the core of their learning, they expand their focus outward to engage with indigenous communities, stories and worldviews at the regional, national, hemispheric and global levels.

Most human diversity is found in indigenous contexts. One example: 5,000 of the world’s 6,000 languages are indigenous. The NAIS Program at PLU uses that diversity to structure curriculum and classroom learning practices. The idea is not to present indigenous peoples as museum-like objects, but to engage with them as living, vibrant communities.

This spring, she represented her tribe as part of a delegation that traveled to Russia. The cultural exchange with the Nenets people included staying in the traditional homes of reindeer herders in the tundra and discussing concerns of climate change, among other important issues. Local tribes returned the favor by welcoming a group of Nenets people during part of canoe journey festivities, Hall added.

“Even though we live in vastly different climates and regions,” Hall said, “there are many more similarities than differences.”

Hall is committed to continuing cultural exchanges with other indigenous groups. Before beginning her work with the Samish, she worked with an indigenous population in Rwanda.

“There’s power in bringing our voices together and learning about one another,” she said.

That’s why canoe journey, in particular, is so important.

“It’s incredible to see how big this event has grown,” Hall said. “Every year, there are more and more canoes that participate.”