Alumni Awards 2024 Recipients

The Foundation for WWU & Alumni is pleased to announce our five winners of the WWU Alumni Awards. These awardees were chosen from a community-wide nomination process and selected by the board. We congratulate these outstanding leaders.

Nicole Burdick

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Nicole Burdick (’13)

Financial advisor, founder Money Maven Financial

Nicole Burdick is a financial advisor and founder of Money Maven Financial, a female-focused financial planning and investment company here in Bellingham.

Nicole is also actively engaged in the Whatcom business community, speaking to groups like Collide, the Women’s Professional Network, and Whatcom Women in Business, where she also serves on the board. She is a frequent visitor to the MBA program at Western, mentoring the next generation of business leaders. A respected voice in finance, she has been a contributor to Bellingham Alive magazine, Business Pulse magazine, and has contributed to online publications like Yahoo Finance, CBS News and HerMoney.

Nicole’s accomplishments include being a finalist for the Top 7 Under 40 Chamber award in 2016, a finalist for the Woman of the Year Chamber award in 2018, and winning Gold in Bellingham Alive's Best of the Northwest 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2022.

We honor Nicole for her work in educating and empowering women through finance.

Ruta Nanivadekar

Outstanding Young Alumni of the Year

Ruta Nanivadekar (’14)

Organizational Development Program Manager, City of Bellevue; President of the Board for Palouse Pathways

Ruta works for the City of Bellevue as an organizational development program manager. She has a passion for organizational and community work. Raised near Seattle, she completed her undergraduate in sociology and political science at Western. She is currently completing a Master’s in learning and organizational change from Northwestern University.

Ruta joined Palouse Pathways in June 2017 and currently serves as president of the board. Palouse Pathways provides resources, information and inspiration to families and students to help them prepare for colleges and careers after high school. She joined Palouse Pathways to help students across the Palouse navigate their post-high school options so that they can find a path where they truly thrive.

In her career and her community work, her mission is to empower people with opportunities and skills so that they can create the life they want for themselves, including on-the-job development, formal education options, and avenues for community engagement.

We are grateful to Ruta for her leadership in organizational management and her service to her community.

David Cuillier

Alumni Achievement Award

David Cuillier (’90)

Director of the University of Florida Brechner Freedom of Information Project

Dr. David Cuillier is a leading authority on the freedom of information. He has been president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, associate professor of journalism and school director at the University of Arizona School of Journalism before moving to the University of Florida. He is a member of the Federal FOIA Advisory Committee, which provides guidance to the National Archivist on how to improve the Freedom of Information Act, and he has testified three times before Congress regarding FOIA.

He started his career as a newspaper reporter and editor in the Pacific Northwest. In 2013 and 2014, he served as the president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and in 2016 was awarded the Wells Memorial Key Award, the highest honor bestowed by SPJ for service to the profession. He also has served as head of the Media Law & Policy Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Generous with his expertise, he aids journalists on acquiring public records, advises states and nations on how to improve their public records laws, and supports news organizations in crafting amicus briefs and appeals.

We are grateful to David for his service to journalism.

Danny Marshall

Alumni Humanitarian Award

Danny Marshall (’80)

Tribal and nonprofit leader

Danny has served on the tribal council of the Steilacoom Tribe for more than 40 years. From 2006 to 2024, he succeeded his mother Joan Marshall (Ortez) as Tribal Chair and is noted for being a tireless advocate for the Steilacoom people.

In addition to his tribal leadership, Danny has dedicated his career to leadership development, and currently serves as program administrator for workforce education at the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. He has dedicated his career to the education industry, beginning with his appointment by President Carter, as a student, to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education in 1980. He is skilled in nonprofit management, career development, coaching, conflict resolution, and intercultural communication. He spent 13 years the Finance Manager for the Tacoma Police Department, and another 14 years as an associate professor at Pierce College, teaching communications, theatre, and psychology.

We are thrilled to honor Danny for his dedication to his tribe and the nonprofit community.

Tony George

Alumni Distinguished Service Award

Anthony (Tony) George (’86)

President of Kitsap Bank

Tony George is a graduate of the College of Business and Economics. He is the president and COO of Kitsap Bank and a lifelong resident of the Kitsap Peninsula. He has been engaged with the Western community as a member of the WWU Foundation board since 2016, serving on the executive committee of the board, the board development committee, and as a philanthropy lead. He is currently serving as board secretary.

Tony was selected to be a community (non-faculty) representative of President Sabah Randhawa’s working group who helped create the 2018 Strategic Plan for the University. He has also served as a speaker on campus discussing his bank’s focus on sustainability efforts.

Tony has embraced Western’s vision for a strong presence on the Peninsulas. He is a supporter of the Sea Discovery Center and played a small part in easing the transfer of that facility over to the University from a local non-profit; he was instrumental in the establishment of the Small Business Development Center on the Peninsulas, helping to bring in local investors to help establish the program in Poulsbo, and he and Kitsap Bank continue to work closely with the SBDC in a variety of programs to help small businesses in the community.  He has been on the front lines working with local community leaders, businesses, the Navy, and local colleges to help bring awareness of the educational and research benefits of Western on the Peninsulas. 

We are pleased to honor Tony George for his years of service to Western.