Distinguished Alumni

Distinguished Alumni

Saint Martin's Distinguished Alumni Awards are bestowed upon alumni for outstanding service to Saint Martin’s, to their local communities, or for incredible professional achievement in their field. These men and women are awarded with honors for exceeding societal expectations, breaking the mold, and helping to make the world a better place. 

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Class of 2024 Distinguished Alumni

On February 24, 2024, Saint Martin's University inducted six new members as the 2024 class of Distinguished Alumni. Each in their unique way has inspired leadership, service, and professional success that has transformed the lives of others. Their bios are listed below.

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Class of 2024 Distinguished Alumni bios

Photo of Robert Elves

Recognized for: Professional Achievement

Dr. Robert Elves graduated from Saint Martin’s College in 1975 with a degree in Chemistry. Throughout his time as a student, Robert was highly involved, serving as an editor for the school newspaper and a projectionist for the Saint Martin’s Movie Theater, and even repainted the front of Old Main while hanging suspended from a sling. After graduating from Saint Martin’s, he furthered his education at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Aerospace Engineering before studying at University of Southern California as a graduate student in Operations Research. He later attended the F. Edward Herbert School of Medicine at Uniformed Services University, where he specialized in Toxicology and Aerospace/Occupational Medicine. 

After completing his extensive education, Dr. Elves’ career specialized in advancing aerospace and medical technologies. He helped develop the Food and Drug Administration’s framework for regulation of the tobacco industry by establishing guidelines for new product safety and health evaluation. Robert served as a volunteer tutor for medical students, adjunct professor at both Cambria County Community College and the University of Pittsburgh, check pilot with the Civil Air Patrol, and advisor to flight test engineering graduate students with the Florida Institute of Technology. As a passionate philanthropist, Elves founded the Elves Giving Trust to support academic institutions in the award of scholarships for academic achievement in pursuit of chemistry and flight test engineering educations.

Dr. Elves received both a U.S. Air Force Commendation Medal and a Meritorious Service Medal for his medical contributions, which he attributes to the chemistry education and training he received at Saint Martin’s College. He is designated a “Gold Seal” Certified Flight Instructor by the Federal Aviation Administration in recognition of instructional excellence. Robert is a two-time United States cycling medalist and former captain of the USAF cycling team.

Photo of Chris Fidler

Recognized for: Service to Community

Chris Fidler recently retired as the interim Executive Director and Project Director of the Port Angeles Waterfront Center responsible for overseeing the development, design, and construction of a new $56 million performing arts, events, and conference center (Field Arts and Events Hall) completed this past summer in his hometown of Port Angeles, WA.

Prior to his work in Port Angeles, Chris served as a Senior Vice President with The Petrizzo Group, a D.C.-based bipartisan lobbying firm whose PNW clients included Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and Vulcan, Inc.

Chris previously served as Director of Grants and Contracts for the Geneva Foundation overseeing more than 160 military medical research studies conducted at over 40 U.S. Department of Defense sites worldwide.

From 2010 to 2013, Chris served four back-to-back tours in Afghanistan as Country Director for Clear Path International, a "mine-action" contractor working on behalf of the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

From 1994 to 2004, Chris directed federal and international government affairs for Airborne Express, a Fortune 500 express cargo air carrier headquartered in Seattle and owner of the largest privately-owned airport in the world (now operated by Amazon, Inc.). In the aftermath of 9/11, Chris was named interim director of Airborne's Aviation Security Department, a role he performed in addition to his government affairs duties for the next two years. In 2003, he directed the nine-month lobbying and public affairs campaign to secure Congressional and regulatory approval of Airborne's merger with DHL Worldwide.

Prior to joining Airborne, Chris worked for three years as Special Assistant for Trade Development with the U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver, BC. He later worked eight years with the WRG Corporation, an international security assistance management company where he ultimately served as Executive Vice President and Managing Director.

Chris received a B.A. in political science from Saint Martin's College ('82) and an M.S. from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service ('85), as well as a Certificate of Languages from the Goethe Institute in Bremen, Germany. Chris also served as a faculty member at the University of Washington's nationally ranked Foster School of Business from 2000 to 2010. 

Photo of Dawn Houle

Recognized for: Service to Community

Dawn Houle is President and founder of SunSinger Consulting, LLC, a Washington, DC based Native American woman-owned company.  She has dedicated her life to fostering strategic partnerships for and with Native American Tribes, artists, business owners and people.  She is the author of Business Success Secrets: Entrepreneurial Thinking That Works, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller.       

SunSinger Consulting optimizes business opportunities for Native American Tribal governments and individuals.  Dawn specializes in assisting her clients build key strategies, access better resources, improve their communities and protect and foster their heritage.  She offers culturally-based modern solutions to Tribes while enhancing natural resource sustainability, generating economic diversification, creating employment opportunities, and participating in greenhouse effect prevention. Dawn has successfully created numerous tribally owned companies from concept to contract.

Dawn successfully builds instrumental strategic partnerships with corporations and federal and state agencies, that greatly benefit her clients.  She served as Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs for President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff for the National Indian Gaming Commission.  Prior to that, she served for over a decade in the Pacific Northwest in forest management and philanthropy for Indian Tribes.  As founder and executive director of the Tulalip Tribes Foundation, a 501(c)(3) focused on cultural and natural resource preservation, Dawn helped to secure funding for a new museum and natural history preserve for the Tulalip Tribes.           

Dawn earned a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Montana and an M.B.A. from Saint Martin’s University.  She serves on the University of Montana W.A. Franke College of Forestry Advisory Board, Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (Indian Market) SWAIA executive board, Mohawk Networks Board and is a Sundial fellow with SheaMoisture.  Dawn is a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana and mother of two.

Photo of Deidre Peterson

Recognized for: Service to Community

Deidre Peterson graduated from Saint Martin’s University with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Management. While attending Saint Martin’s, Peterson was a very active student. As a freshman, she worked to reinstitute the campus chapter of Circle K International, for which she went on to serve as Club President and Lt. Governor for Division 38 and also represented the PNW district as a Key Leader trainer. 

Peterson served in numerous positions for the Associated Students of Saint Martin’s University (A.S.S.M.U.), including as Activities Director and President. She was named Executive of the Year twice throughout her time with A.S.S.M.U. and was honored with the “Be the Spirit Award for Outstanding Service to the Students of Saint Martin’s University” in 2007. Peterson is a former staff member of the university, where she worked as a Special Events Coordinator, and later as an Advancement Officer for Alumni Relations and Special Events. 

From here, Peterson moved on to work at the Shelton-Mason County Chamber of Commerce in 2011, where she remains to this day. Starting as an Office Manager, she was able to grow with the organization and in 2014 became a Membership Director, a position she held for over eight years. In 2022, she became the Vice President of Business Development and later, the President and Chief Executive Officer, where she wears many hats including economic developer and planner, tourist information concierge, business spokesperson, government relations specialist, business and nonprofit consultant, and public relations practitioner. 

Through her work at the Chamber, she has had the pleasure of serving on several community boards and working groups. Most recently, she was invited to give back to professional network as a board member of both Washington Chamber of Commerce Executives and Western Association of Chamber Executives. Peterson was elected Councilmember for City of Shelton, serving as Deputy Mayor 2018-2019 and being reelected to Council 2020-2023. Also a long standing member of Shelton Kiwanis Club, she served as the club's president in 2014. She is also an active member of St. Edward Catholic Church in Shelton, where she volunteers for a variety of stewardship activities. 

Peterson's experience in the private and public sectors has honed a strong community-relations background, administrative support skills, and excellent communications capabilities. A fourth generation Mason County native, she has earned a reputation known for her strong work ethic, professional behavior, and business acumen.

Photo of Paul Thiry

Recognized for: Professional Achievement

Paul Thiry, a graduate of Saint Martin’s High School, class of 1920, is widely known as known as the father of architectural modernism in the Pacific Northwest. Born in Nome, Alaska to French parents during the heyday of the Gold Rush, Thiry attended architecture school at the University of Washington and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in France, following his graduation from Saint Martin’s at the age of 15. 

Upon returning from France, Thiry designed his own house and juggled several commissions in the 1930’s, before coming to national attention in 1940 with a cement-based residence that was featured in The Modern House in America. Thiry went on to serve as the supervising architect for the Seattle World’s Fair, responsible for the overall plan and coordinating the work of contributors like John Graham Jr. (for the Space Needle), Minoru Yamasaki, and the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. Thiry's own designs for the fair included the Washington State Pavilion, which later became the KeyArena and is today the Climate Pledge Arena.

Some of his other noteworthy works included the Thiry Architectural Office, the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, Regents Hill at Washington State University, the Frye Art Museum, and the Washington State Library on Olympia’s Capitol Mall. In 1962, President Kennedy appointed Thiry to the National Capitol Planning Commission, through which he served on the President’s Council on Pennsylvania Avenue from 1963 to 1975. In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy appointed Thiry to the Kennedy Library Design Advisory Committee. Thiry is highly recognized for his contributions to modern architecture, receiving numerous awards including the American Institute of Architects Seattle chapter’s highest honor: the AIA Seattle Medal in 1984.

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The mission of the Office of Institutional Advancement is to promote Saint Martin’s University’s cause among its alumni, parents and friends; raise funds in support of Saint Martin’s University’s Benedictine educational mission and its priorities; and build strong relationships between Saint Martin’s and its various constituencies.

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