Former NEA Chief to Receive Award for Public Service

John Stocks

The Evergreen State College will honor John C. Stocks ‘81, with the Joseph Albert Dear Distinguished Alumni Award during the college’s Return to Evergreen Alumni Lunch on 12:00pm-1:30pm on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Evergreen’s annual alumni celebration gives graduates and friends the opportunity to connect, learn and enjoy a day back on campus. Return to Evergreen includes a variety of events both on and off campus in Olympia and Tacoma. 

Stocks is nationally known for his work at the nexus of democracy and protecting public education. 

He served as executive director of the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the U.S., from 2011 to August 31, 2019. He was the deputy executive director from 2004-2011. He currently serves as a Senior Advisor to NEA, Chair of the Democracy Alliance and Co-Chair of the Strategic Victory Fund (SVF).

The award honors alumni who have shown an exceptional commitment to public service. It is named after the late Joe Dear ‘77 who restored to solvency the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the nation’s largest public pension fund, in the wake of the global financial crisis. 

Joe Dear.
Joe Dear.

Stocks began his career as a community organizer, political strategist, and politician in Idaho before taking leadership roles in the Wisconsin Education Association Council and NEA.

At Evergreen, Stocks’ first program was Applied Environmental Studies, taught by faculty members Oscar Soule, Carolyn Dobbs and Russ Lidman. He dove into a group project to research aquaculture, tidal flow and water quality in Totten Inlet.

Stocks also joined the then-active student fire station on campus, which he cites as “one of the most remarkable opportunities Evergreen provided.” 

He served as engine driver and ambulance crew member and, as a participant in a college-run, self-help legal aid program and supported two other station members in their quest to become Olympia’s first women firefighters. 

“We advocated for these women not to be disqualified from being hired by the Olympia Fire Department because of the discriminatory physical test,” he says. “We helped break a major glass ceiling.”

This same legal assistance program pitched in to defend scores of Evergreen students who were arrested in 1978 protesting the construction of the twin Satsop nuclear reactors located between Olympia and Aberdeen. 

Stocks worked with faculty advisors Rob Knapp, Niels Skov and Richard Cellarius who were studying nuclear reactor physics to prep the defense lawyers for the students’ trial, which was averted when the charges were dismissed soon after the 1979 partial reactor meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. The Satsop reactors were never completed.

Past recipients of the award include past-chair of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Ron Charles ‘97, New York state assemblymember, Yuh-Line Niou ‘04, Washington State Representative, Sharon Tomiko Santos ‘85, Washington State Teacher of the Year, Nate Gibbs-Bowling ‘04, MiT’06, and Washington State Department of Ecology Director, Maia Bellon ‘91

The alumni lunch where Stocks will be honored takes place at the college’s Olympia campus. The event is open to the public by registration.

Credits: Photo of Joe Dear Courtesy of CalPERS