Pierce Pioneer

Remembering Denise Yochum

Pierce College Historical Archives / Courtesy Photo

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom mourns the death of Denise Yochum, after a long battle with cancer. On Jan. 13, chancellor Michele Johnson announced the news of the former college president’s passing, which sparked commemorative responses from the community she impacted.

Yochum served as Pierce College’s president for 13 years before retiring last January; she remained an active member of the community even after, Johnson stated in an email. Yochum oversaw the expansion of many projects on Fort Steilacoom’s campus, including making the Science Dome interactive and renovating classrooms and student services spaces.

“Denise’s commitment to student success and her dedicated service to the college was exemplary,” Johnson stated in an email. “She has also been an active and beloved member in the local community, a state leader, and was a shining example of leadership that was grounded in integrity, skill, and courage.”

Not only was Yochum a leader, she was also a friend to many. “Denise’s quick wit has made us laugh, and we appreciated her fun and free flowing ways,” Johnson stated. “Denise’s thoughtful, caring, outgoing personality and sharp mind has endeared her to us now and long into the future.”

For Daniel Dino-Slofer, Pierce College’s media assistant, he admired Yochum’s ability to inspire others. One of his favorite memories of her was when he trained with Student Life in 2015.

“She shared her inspiring experiences with us on how she started her career path that ultimately led her to be the President of the Fort Steilacoom campus,” said Dino-Slofer. “Her story gave us student leaders a lot of encouragement on how far your efforts and goals can take you when you put your mind to it.”

Yochum will be remembered for her leadership and service for the Pierce College community. Yochum is survived by her husband Eric, sons Eric and Kyle, five grandchildren, and a large extended family, Johnson stated in an email. Yochum’s memorial will be held at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom on Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. in the Performance Lounge.

The remembrance of Ron Schwartz

Courtesy Photo / Pierce College Archives
A photo of Ron Schwartz in 2012.

On August 8, English and philosophy professor Ron Schwartz passed away after having lived with brain tumors for over 12 months.  Schwartz taught at Fort Steilacoom, Puyallup and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and has been a beloved member of the Pierce community for 16 years.. 

Schwartz was born on January 7, 1955 in Youngstown, Ohio. After being an undergraduate at the University of Chicago in 1978, Schwartz would go to earn his master’s degree and post-masters at King’s College, later receiving  his Ph.D in literature and theology in 1998. 

Schwartz has made himself a part of numerous other communities outside of Pierce College. Prior to teaching at Pierce, he taught theology at Pacific Lutheran University, served as a professor at Colby College, and taught Business admin in California during the 1980s. Schwartz was an economist in Philadelphia for some time.

 Pierce faculty and Pierce students will miss Schwartz. Stephen Jones, an economics professor at Pierce’s Puyallup Campus, personally feels this loss.

“Ron was one of my favorite people at Pierce, which says a lot in and of itself,” said Jones in an email. “I admired his intellect and dedication. I learned much from him that I applied in my classes, and any conversation with him was rich and exceptional in content and insight. But perhaps what I appreciated most about him was his gentleness and compassion. We were lucky to know him.” 

Schwartz was known for his passion of the academics and students. His keen sense of humor and his intellect will be remembered. 

Schwartz’s obituary may be accessed here

The Pioneer sends our condolences with Ron Schwartz’s family and friends.

Light a candle at Christmas

A candle flame does more than light up a room

A lit candle is more than a source of light in a dark room. All civilizations and religions have used it as a focal point for something.

For the Hindu, an oil flame represents using knowledge to conquer the ugly side of human nature – lust, anger, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, envy, etc.

Jewish rites center around lamp flames as they symbolize God himself present among His chosen people. A Roman Catholic Mass uses candles in the sacred rites for the same reason.

The sight of flickering candles on top of headstones in graveyards around Finland creates an almost ethereal air as family members remember past loved ones.

This ritual is used in many homes where a lit candle is more than just scent and ambience. They are often lit to remember a loved one who is no longer here.

Losing a mother or father is hard and can make the holidays difficult to handle. Watching children climb onto Santa’s lap in the mall brings back painful Christmas memories of Dad or Grandpa playing Father Christmas.

Having to bury a son or daughter is devastating. Tiny Tim proclaiming “God bless us everyone” can bring a never-ending flood of tears.

Lighting a candle is a symbolic way to represent the soul. For those who believe in spirituality, the soul never dies. By lighting a candle, in a way that soul is once again a part of the holiday.

As long as the candle is lit, memories can be shared and the ache is less. The instant the lighter touches the wick, it is as if a magic spell has been cast.

As the flame dances with the air movement in the room, it is as if the spirit has joined the festivities. For just a moment, a wisp of air on the cheek is a kiss.

This year for Christmas, light a candle and welcome the memories. Hold tight to the hand of the ghost of Christmas Past as you peek through the windows.

Attend a Christmas Eve service and as the candles are lit around the room, make plans to create new memories.

Seek to become your own candle and light the world around you. When a candle is lit in your memory, may it ease away the ache that was left behind.

Leave a Comment