Tribute to Founding Faculty Leon ‘Pete’ Sinclair

Founding faculty member emeritus Leon “Pete” Sinclair passed away November 28, 2015, at age 80. Sinclair embraced Evergreen’s interdisciplinary approach to learning and integrated his passion and respect for nature into his teaching. Over his career, he developed lasting friendships with many students and faculty, starting with the 148 students and six other faculty in the 1971–72 program, Individual in America, Evergreen’s largest to date.


Many students were transformed through Sinclair’s writing seminars, independent contracts, and journal keeping. He taught his students to write honestly and to be true to themselves and others. He gave never-ending support and instilled confidence in their abilities. The Journal of Exploration: An Approach to Teaching Writing (published by Sinclair in 1981) was a powerful tool in his teaching. It is still used, to date, by some.

Sinclair not only wrote about exploration, he lived and taught it. Marine Studies students learned to sail and build seaworthy boats, and he introduced other students to kayaking, camping, and teamwork in Alaska. He encouraged them to write about their experiences.

While faculty member Nancy Koppelman did not kayak in Alaska, she learned valuable lessons from Sinclair as a student and later as a teaching assistant. “Pete taught me what it means to be an honest writer,” she said. “He taught me to get used to the difficult fact that honesty is a perpetual challenge.”

Through his classes, Koppelman said she gained an acute, if sometimes squirm-worthy level of self-awareness. “These are lessons not only for writing,” she said, “but for life.”

During Sinclair’s later years he pursued his love for adventure through recreational sailing, sea kayaking, and travels to Alaska and Europe with Connie, his wife of 52 years.

His former students, many of whom attended his memorial, told Connie that Pete Sinclair never stopped thinking. “His mind was always at work,” she said. A student told her he’d chanced to meet Sinclair on the bus one afternoon. After sitting down next to him, the student commented on Sinclair’s relaxed state. Sinclair replied that he was cloud-watching. “He then proceeded to explain what kinds of clouds they were, how fast they were moving, etcetera.” said Connie. “That was the mind that never stopped.”

Rudy Martin with founding faculty members

Rudy Martin at a summer retreat with fellow founding faculty members Merv Cadwallader, Willi Unsoeld, Larry Eickstaedt, and Don Humphrey.

Rudy Martin, a True Original

Evergreen lost a true original on March 5, when founding and emeritus faculty member S.R. ‘Rudy’ Martin Jr., 80, passed away at his home in Olympia.

Martin taught for 27 years at Evergreen and retired in 1997, having served as faculty chair and academic dean. He taught courses in the arts and humanities, but was widely remembered as a writing instructor.

Faculty member Nancy Parkes ’78 told The Olympian that Martin was a “foundational writing teacher who taught students how to read like writers, how to understand the architecture of writing, how to take something apart and put it back together again.” She recalled, “He was one of those rare mentors and individuals that changed many lives one at a time.”

Rudy Martin in Office

Rudy Martin in his office smoking his ever-present pipe, circa 1972.

Colleagues as well as former students credit Martin with seminal changes. “When I arrived at Evergreen, so long ago, Rudy was one of those who made me confident that my difficult choice was worth the risk,” said faculty emeritus Chuck Pailthorpe.

Others recall his friendliness, his smile, his welcoming nature. “Rudy was the one founding faculty who invited me to have lunch downstairs by the ‘dinosaur area,’” said faculty emeritus Raul Nakasone.

While he fit right in at Evergreen, Martin had previously felt the pride and the loneliness of his pioneering spirit. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, he became the first black teacher at a northern California high school. He later became the first black faculty member at Modesto Junior College. The author of three books, Martin taught the first course in African American literature at Washington State University before helping found Evergreen.

Martin is survived by his wife, Evergreen’s former Vice President for Student Affairs, Gail Martin; daughter, Lory Anne Martin; and sons, Sennie Rudolph (Skip) Martin, III, Greg Andrew Whiting, Paul Alain Martin, and Grant Dell Whiting. Grant, who works in Building Services at the college, said Martin was, “the best stepdad I ever could have hoped for.”

John Filmer’s Last Voyage

John Filmer, Evergreen faculty member from 1972 to his retirement in 2014, died December 3, 2015 at age 83.

John Filmer on his boat

The spring prior to his death Filmer was awarded emeritus status from the college, noting that his contributions to Evergreen bridged both governance work and teaching. His areas of expertise included applied science and technology, maritime studies, international trade, and organizational and business management. He had deep connections with the Port of Seattle and other maritime trade and business associations that provided rich learning experiences for students. (Filmer is pictured above aboard The Resolute in 2014.)

“One summer I had the privilege of visiting John’s course on port operations at the Port of Seattle,” recalled faculty emeritus John Perkins. “I ended up thinking this was one of the most innovative courses I’d seen—very practical yet seeking to give students a broader context on how a particular public agency really works.”

Perkins added, “Evergreen was one of the few places that such an offering could exist. John was one of the many maverick faculty who brought a distinctive style to his work and made Evergreen a very interesting place.”

Filmer was known for his expertise in wide-ranging subject matter, his no-nonsense nature, and his deep understanding of the Puget Sound maritime economy.

Sheila Sawyer, Filmer’s program secretary for the last eight years, noted, “He loved teaching business entrepreneurship, and hands-on teaching through sailing, which greatly benefited his students. Besides all this he was a great guy, who took the time to have meaningful conversations; we all can speak to his feistiness and willingness to fight for what he believed in. My heartfelt empathy is with his family and friends. You will be dearly missed, Captain John Filmer!”

Kort Jungel, a Greener Through and Through

Kort Jungel ’03, an employee in Evergreen’s mail room since 1980, passed away unexpectedly November 17, 2015 at age 61.

Kort Jungel preparing a meal

Jungel prepares a meal for Summer Ornithology students in his famous camp kitchen at Malheur Bird Observatory. As camp chef, he kept many field trip participants well fed.

Before becoming an employee Jungel was a student, with an interest in alternative agriculture. He worked on the organic farm. He was an avid gardener, bird watcher, stargazer, and gourmet cook. Kort cooked for students in the Summer Ornithology program for 18 years. He was more than a cook. Beloved by everyone, he counseled students, did the shopping, and was a calming, friendly presence at all times. In many ways, he was the social nucleus of the longest-taught course at Evergreen.

Jungel once stated that the most enjoyable part of his job was the people he was surrounded by. “There are so many brilliant faculty, as well as staff and students—I’m always amazed at the level of expertise that a lot of the students have.”

The mailroom brought him joy. He spoke of the satisfaction he experienced helping people correspond with loved ones, especially international students who had family overseas.

After Jungel’s death, many shared how he had touched their lives. One friend wrote, “Words are not enough to express how I feel about the passing of our dear friend, Kort. My sadness is punctuated by so many wonderful, cheerful memories. The sound of his voice will always be with me. His humor always brought a smile to my heart. Peace to all who loved Kort.”

In Memoriam

Richard A. Ahrens ’89, Dec. 7, 2015 at age 58. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1976–80 and was a massage therapist.

Marilyn A. Brisbane ’90, Oct. 8, 2015 at age 79. She worked as a school nurse, then as director of nursing at St. Peter Hospital. Later she worked as assistant administrator of patient care services.

Laura S. Deach ’82, Nov. 3, 2015 at age 55. After working at SeaWorld in San Diego, Laura became established with National Marine Fisheries, where she was a marine biologist in Hood Canal and Neah Bay.

Glenn Dukelow ’73, Jan. 16 at age 73. He had a long career as an electrician, and was a Seahawks fan and a voracious reader.

Penny Fields ’04, Nov. 4, 2015 at age 55. She was an accomplished equestrian. Penny’s passion was her horse, Sugar.

Sarah Fields ’14, Aug. 25, 2015 at age 34. She worked for Quimper Sound and the Olympia Food Co-op before moving to Bremerton. She also worked as a barista in Port Townsend and New York.

Rodney ‘Fish’ Gervais ’14, Dec. 28, 2015 at age 56. A former councilman for the Blackfeet Tribe and a civil rights activist, he was highly educated and earned his MPA in tribal governance.

Rick Harden ’03, Feb. 25 at age 63. A web developer, former Navy sailor, and drummer, Rick spent his last 15 Christmases playing Santa at the Tacoma Mall.

Martha Harpel ’93, Nov. 29, 2015 at age 57. Martha worked for the State of Washington for 20 years.

Michael Hathaway ’80, Dec. 1, 2015 at age 58. He happily married his wife, Carole, in 1991.

Lorrie A. Medford ’83, Sept. 16, 2015 at age 66. Lorrie owned a nutritional consulting business, Life Design Nutrition. She wrote nine books on nutrition.

Sharon Morken ’10, Jan. 18 at age 64. She had a career with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and retired as the executive administrative assistant from Quil Ceda Village in Tulalip.

Nancie Payne ’83, Dec. 27, 2015 at age 63. She opened Payne & Associates, dedicated to supporting positive learning environments for adults with non-apparent disabilities.

Jeanne Rett ’91, Jan. 7 at age 62. She taught at Bush Middle School in Tumwater for 20 years.

Dante Salvatierro MiT ’98, Oct. 20, 2015 at age 42. He taught third and fourth graders at Pinewood Elementary School in Omaha.

Barbara Siemion ’92, Sept. 1, 2015 at age 83. After serving during the Korean War and raising her children, Barb went on to work for the State of Washington, in the Office of the Secretary of State. She then became director of volunteers at Capital Medical Center.

Kelly R. Smith ’90, Nov. 1, 2015 at age 52. He was a skilled songwriter and a member of the local makers group, OlyMega. He was reinventing the pedal steel guitar.

Marjorie Valdillez ’04, Jan. 28 at age 72. A Quinault elder who worked for the tribe since 1978, Marjorie wore many administrative hats and also served on the Quinault Tribal Council.

Robin Wiggin ’80, Nov. 6, 2015 at age 58. Robin worked in shelters for battered women and children prior to her career in the Multnomah County Developmental Disabilities Department and the Portland Area Region I Crisis Diversion office.

Maureen Williams ’88, Jan. 17 at age 75. Dedicating her life to service, she was involved with her church, spent 30 years as a foster parent, volunteered at local charities, and would open her home to battered women.