Patron Saints and Community Partner Awards

Posted May 18, 2011 

Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) announces the 2011 recipients of two of the College’s most prestigious awards: the Community Partnership and Patron Saint Awards.

Both are longtime traditions in which MHCC recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations for their continued support of the College and its students. Vanport International, Inc., has been selected to receive the Community Partnership Award for 2011. Patron Saint recipients are Sharon Birge, from The Boeing Company, Roger McDowell, a retired MHCC instructor and administrator, and Carol Nielsen-Hood, a former member of the MHCC District Board of Education. All were honored by the Board and community at a reception May 11 on the Gresham campus.

John J. “Ski” Sygielski, MHCC president, said, “For 45 years -- even before the College was built -- the community has supported Mt. Hood Community College and all that it does to enrich lives. We are grateful for the many partnerships we have in the community that help make MHCC a valuable asset in the metro-Portland area. MHCC is indebted to these outstanding individuals and company for their remarkable dedication ensuring our students and everyone associated with moving mountains at MHCC are successful.”

A word about the naming of the Patron Saint Award: MHCC’s mascot is the St. Bernard, a breed of dog known for its steadfast bravery and dedication to helping people – especially during freezing, white-out blizzards. The Patron Saint Award recognizes individuals who have – metaphorically speaking – braved the elements to support their favorite college, MHCC.

Left to right: John J. “Ski” Sygielski, president of Mt. Hood Community College, Martin Hertrich, from Vanport International, Inc., winner of the 2011 Community Partnership Award, with Patron Saints: Roger McDowell, a former MHCC instructor and administrator, Sharon Birge, from The Boeing Co., and Carol Nielsen-Hood, a former MHCC District Board member, with Brian Freeman, current MHCC District Board chair.

Sharon Birge serves as the IAM/Boeing Joint Programs administrator at Boeing Portland, where she and her IAM (International Association of Machinists) partner, Stacey Breunig, provide employees with training and safety products and services. In her role, she collaborates with three on-site MHCC professionals to provide Boeing employees specialized training as well as career advising and counseling services.

Birge leads her team in the development and deployment of Boeing’s annual Campus Plan with MHCC staff members to fund student scholarships and foster relationships and programs that support student learning. There are many collaborations between Boeing and MHCC, which range from funding scholarships through the MHCC Foundation, to supporting fund-raising events and offering a range of MHCC educational opportunities to Boeing employees.

Birge’s affection for MHCC runs deep. She attended MHCC as a student, as did five of her family members, and she used MHCC as a stepping stone to earn an MBA, in 1992.


Roger McDowell has the distinction of being able to say he taught chemistry the first day MHCC opened in 1966.  He retired in 1994 after service as an administrator and as an instructor and has remained active in efforts to elect board members and to acquire improved funding for MHCC activities and equipment.

McDowell has also served on a variety of college committees at the request of MHCC officials and says, “The importance of community colleges cannot be overstated. They serve as an affordable fountain of opportunity for many people. They deserve all the support we are able to give.”


Carol Nielsen-Hood, besides having an apt surname, has contributed to Mt. Hood Community College in many ways including service on the MHCC District Board of Education.  She recognizes the importance of connecting the college community with the business community and has played key roles to maintain and enhance MHCC facilities and educational programs. She is a former chief executive officer of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and a former member of the Gresham City Council.


Vanport International, Inc., an international lumber, manufacturing and consulting firm, was selected as the recipient of this year’s Community Partnership Award. On any day of the week, you will find company founder, Adolph Hertrich, working in the office of the business he started in 1967. 

Although Hertrich’s business spans the globe, with interests in Canada, China, Russia, Germany and Japan, he has long been a generous supporter of his local community, and especially of MHCC and its Natural Resources Technology program. And, so too, has his son, Martin Hertrich, who serves on the MHCC Foundation Board and is currently serving on the grants and scholarships committee.

Whether it’s encouraging their own employees to give back to the community, offering scholarships so students can pursue forestry careers, or contributing in any other number of ways, the Hertrichs and Vanport are vital community partners.

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 Last Modified: 5/18/2011 11:27:39 AM