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Friday, May 14, 2021

Western recognizes employees for 45 years of service

Mariz headshot
Former honors program director and George Mariz was working at Western since 1970 and retired last year. // Photo by Wynter DesJardins.

Western’s 39th annual Employee Recognition Ceremony will be held this Thursday, May 5. This event highlights and honors employees who have been with Western anywhere from five to 45 years.

This year, two employees will be honored for 45 years of service. Over the years, they’ve seen students, technology and the campus itself change.

Now retired, former honors program director and Missouri native George Mariz has always loved the college environment, he said.

Like most, when Mariz got to college he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Interested in chemistry, but discouraged by the prospect of spending his days in a lab, he was at least sure of the fact that the higher education atmosphere made him happy.

In 1970 he came to Bellingham for a job in Western’s history department and stayed until just this last year.

“I don’t like to move around,” Mariz said. “I’m one of those people who gets somewhere and if I like it I just like to stay.”

First-year students who are new to a subject are among Mariz’s favorite to teach, and his favorite part about teaching over the years were the discussions they could carry on, he said.

“They’re at a point where their eyes really open wide; it’s really fun,” Mariz said.

Mariz recalled a seminar from two years ago that was a perfect example of what kept him excited and passionate about teaching. He walked into a classroom every day, full of eager students and asked one question. Some days this would lead to another question, but other days he barely spoke and let the students carry on the discussion.

“I cannot remember a more pleasurable academic experience than that,” Mariz said.

In the seminar, the students didn’t always get everything right, but that’s not what they were there for. They were there to formulate ideas of their own and have independent opinions, Mariz said.

Over Mariz’s 45 years as a professor, he noticed a few things that changed, one being that our education today requires more physical space. Western’s architecture has changed because of the need for more elaborate space for equipment, labs, research and training, Mariz said.

As a professor, Mariz said he would always encourage students to go through two or three drafts of a paper not only to improve on grammar, but to refine their way of thinking and organize their arguments outside of a word processor. Now, Mariz said he thinks students write better because of word processors.

The final change Mariz noticed is in the pace of the curriculum itself. Some classes that were considered graduate classes when he was in school are now considered undergraduate. He said he feels students are about a year further along with a bachelor’s degree than when he was in school.

Currently, Mariz’s wife is a Federal Emergency Management Agency reservist, and they have plans of traveling during their retirement. However, Mariz doesn’t plan on living anywhere other than Bellingham.

“I’m a Missouri boy, and this is where I want to die,” Mariz said. “I have no desire to live anywhere else.”

Demorest other
Systems Analyst Denny Demorest has worked at Western for 45 years writing programs and codes crucial to the systems Western employees use everyday. // Photo courtesy of Denny Demorest.

Still working with Western, Systems Analyst Denny Demorest has worked for 45 years writing programs and codes crucial to the systems Western employees use on an everyday basis. He works with departments across campus in student accounts, registration, financial aid and more to program things that help the administration help the users.

As complex as it sounds, Demorest said it’s not too difficult and he really enjoys doing it.

A Bellingham native, Demorest attended Whatcom Middle School and Bellingham High School before graduating from Western in 1969 with a degree in math and a minor in physics. At the time, computer science was not offered as a major.

Right after graduating, Demorest was hired for a temporary position which turned into a full-time position in 1970. Having just gotten married, he said was just happy to have a job and didn’t expect to be here this long. Demorest’s office was originally in Old Main, before Bond Hall was built.

Demorest’s favorite part about the job is working with the staff.

Demorest’s wife, Barbara Demorest is currently retired and he said retirement is in his future, but there are no official plans yet. Barbara Demorest runs Bellingham’s branch of a nonprofit organization called Knitted Knockers, which makes knitted prosthetic breasts for women who have gone through cancer treatments and have had to have a mastectomy.

“Our retirement looks a little different than we thought it would but it’s really rewarding,” Demorest said.

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