Willie C. Stewart, Sr.

2019 Laureate

Willie C. Stewart, Sr.

EDUCATOR WILLIE C. STEWART SELECTED AS 2019 TACOMA PEACE LAUREATE

The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize is proud to announce that Willie C. Stewart, Sr. has been selected as the 2019 Laureate. Mr. Stewart was selected for his long-term service and ongoing commitment to the community and Tacoma schools, particularly in the Lincoln District and the Hilltop. As a practitioner of racial reconciliation, he has been a consistent calming influence in situations involving racial friction or conflict.

A longtime public school educator, Willie became the first black school principal in Tacoma history when he took on the role at Lincoln High School in 1970. “He was able to diffuse many of the possible ‘riots’ on campus by engaging people in conversation that could lead to a possible resolution or more peaceful ending,” wrote Linda Caspersen (Lincoln Class of ’72) in a letter to the GTTP Board nominating him for the Prize. “He had the innate ability to teach us to not look at color as a dividing factor, but rather as a unique opportunity to appreciate everyone as an individual and be part of a larger group.”

Mr. Stewart grew up in Texas where he picked cotton as a child, attended high school, earned a B.A. at Texas Southern University, and worked a series of odd jobs before eventually joining the army and retiring as a colonel. He spent 36 years working for the Tacoma School District as a teacher and administrator and sat on the Tacoma School Board from 1999 to 2005 and remains heavily involved in local organizations. He has served as the Coordinator for the Weekly Breakfast for the Homeless since 1995. He’s also a member of the Tacoma Athletic Commission, the Goodwill Industries Board, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound Board of Governors.

The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize recognizes and honors Peacemakers from the Tacoma/Pierce County region. First awarded in 2005 during the Centennial celebration of Norway’s independence, the award has its roots in Norwegian-American culture. It’s founded on the idea that peace begins locally.

Willie C. Stewart in 2019 Parade

Melannie Denise Cunningham

Laureate 2018

For her exemplary work promoting racial reconciliation, the Board of Directors has selected Tacoma Resident Melannie Denise Cunningham as the 2018 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize Laureate.

“Melannie is a visionary, educator, community servant and consummate peace builder.”

Nominator Joanne Lisosky

Cunningham uses her years of knowledge, coalition building, and strategic planning to host The People’s Gathering. It is an annual conference which brings together business leaders, human resource professionals, educators, and students to engage in frank conversations about race. American society is moving backwards. Discussions to deny individuals their rights are no longer behind closed doors. Cunningham was inspired to encourage people to speak by a quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

The People’s Gathering equips professionals with tools to use existing policy to fight cultural stereotypes, institutional racism, and discrimination in the workplace, instead of reinforcing them. The over 200 individuals that participate in the conference each year continue the sometime difficult conversations about race and move the issue forward in the greater Tacoma community.

Cunningham brings unwritten cultural knowledge back to Tacoma from one of its fourteen Sister Cities, George, South Africa. She visits George often. When apartheid policies were abolished, Cunningham saw a perfect opportunity to build solidarity based on the commonalities shared by American and South African cultures. South Africans needed to bring communities together that are separated by race, gender and class. U.S. communities, including Tacoma, face many of the same issues. Part of her efforts involve her work with Women of Vision, a non-governmental organization registered with the United Nations. Cunningham notes, “We see ourselves in the faces of women of children that cry and feel just like us.” Women of Vision brings together individuals from different backgrounds to solve community problems. They empower women and girls to make change. They improve the mind, body, and spirit. Cunningham brings those discussions back to the Tacoma community through her service on Tacoma Sister Cities Council and George, South Africa Committee.

Cunningham’s promotion of peace in Tacoma spans decades. In the late 1980s Cunningham organized the first citywide Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. In 2015 she spearheaded an effort that led to the City of Tacoma to become the first city in the United States to accept the “Hate Won’t Win” challenge.

As the Director of Multicultural Outreach and Engagement at Pacific Lutheran University, Cunningham serves as a mentor to hundreds of students of color that join the PLU community. There are few administrators and faculty of color at PLU to serve as role models. She explains, “It is necessary for students to experience teaching and learning from people of multicultural backgrounds.” Students often discuss problems with her, and she helps them strategically approach problems and develop solutions.


Pennye Nixon

2017 Laureate

Pennye Nixon thoughtfully responded to an inquiry about her work. “I like to talk about poop.” Nixon explained that there are two precursors to public health – clean water and sanitation – and that sanitation is often forgotten about when assisting impoverished areas. As the Founder and Director of Operations for Etta Projects, Nixon directs projects that construct sanitation facilities and provide clean water in rural Bolivian villages. These exceptional peacebuilding efforts are why the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize (GTTP) was proud to announce the selection of Pennye Nixon as the 2017 Laureate this evening, at the Etta Projects 13th Annual Auction.

In addition to providing clean water and sanitation, Etta Projects also trains women to become health workers in the villages. Nixon explained that the women are trained in groups and network across several villages. The training empowers women who never had a role that was valued in a village before. Health care workers provide basic care such as tending to wounds, prenatal care, and treating the common cold. They also work with clinics to ensure that individuals receive follow-up care. Nixon has seen attitudes in villages change overnight. When women are empowered, their status in the village increases.

Etta Projects began in 2003 out of a tragedy. Nixon’s daughter, Etta, was a 16-year-old Rotary International Exchange Student. Nixon mentioned that Bolivia was not Etta’s first choice but she embraced her assignment anyway. Etta quickly became a favorite among locals. She attended a wealthy high school in Bolivia but reached out to individuals of lower classes. Nixon mentioned that Etta played soccer with a class of people that her classmates deemed unworthy to associate with. She also recounted a story of Etta saving a sloth from oncoming traffic in a town square. Etta passed away tragically in a bus crash after only three months in the country. However, her impact was so great that the local government named a dining hall after Etta. The dining hall provides food for the poor in the city that Etta embraced.

In 2009 Etta Projects shifted its focus from providing food to constructing sanitation and water projects. They quickly added the health worker training program. Nixon believes that sanitary conditions and health care create conditions for peace. Stable communities create conditions where individuals can progress and grow. Nixon notes, “Peace is about contentment.” It is hard for individuals to be content when they are fighting for their basic needs. Etta Projects recently added a Community Transformation Center to further development in rural villages. The center coordinates with NGOs and local officials to continue to build infrastructure and access to resources in the communities.

For more information about Pennye’s efforts:

Etta Projects Home Page

Etta Projects Introduction Video


Theresa Pan Hosley

2016 Laureate

Recognizing the importance of reconciliation in peacemaking, the Board of Directors of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize (GTPP) is proud to announce the selection of Ms. Theresa Pan Hosley as the 2016 GTPP Laureate.

Ms. Hosley was nominated by the World Affairs Council (WAC) of Tacoma “for her initiative, persistence, and long-term leadership of Tacoma’s Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation.”

The nominators related that “Her main strengths as a leader are her patience, soft yet firm touch, and her ability to listen. She is a manifestation of a peacemaker, promoting enduring reconciliation and harmony.”

Theresa Pan Hosley
2016 Theresa Pan Hosley

The 2016 Laureate Recognition Banquet will be held on Thursday, September 22, when Ms. Hosley will receive a unique glass artwork (created especially for the GTPP by Tacoma’s Hilltop Artists), a certificate of commendation, a laureate medallion, and a trip for two to Oslo, Norway, to participate in “The Nobel Days,” events surrounding the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her name will be the 12th to be added to the GTPP perpetual plaque.

Chinese Reconciliation Project


Thomas Dixon

2015 Laureate

Thomas Dixon, the “voice of black Tacoma” for over thirty years and mentor to two generations of African-American civic leaders, has been a vital force in Tacoma’s 50-year drive forjustice and diversity. As we continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, it is timely that we honor this leading figure in Tacoma’s non-violent struggle for racial and social equity.

Born the grandson of a slave in Georgia in 19,31, Tom remained in Tacoma after completing military service at McChord Air Force Base in 1964. Two years later he became the first director of the Hilltop Multi-Service Center and in 1968 became the inaugural executive director of Tacoma’s new affiliate of the National Urban League, a position he held for 34 years. As Tacoma Urban League executive director, Tom Dixon worked assiduously for economic development, job training, social services, and the general benefit of all Tacomans. But as a leading black voice within black and multi-racial communities in Pierce County, Tom was in a key position to advocate progressive change to a conservative, predominately white city leadership; respond to an outbreak of racial violence in the Mother’s Day Disturbance of 1969 with a strong voice of non-violence and conciliation; and was a leading figure in the formation of the Black Collective, a weekly gathering of black civic leaders that continues today.

As influential as the Urban League was during this era of enormous and often hard­ fought progress, Tom Dixon’s most lasting contribution to Tacoma’s transformation since the 1960s may have been his work with and place of influence within the Black Collective. From this rich and dynamic source of human energy have emerged such influential civic leaders as Harold Moss, Tacoma’s first black mayor; James Walton, Tacoma’s first black city manager; Bil Dixon, Tacoma’s first black female city council member; and current city council member Victoria Woodards – all encouraged, supported, and mentored by Thomas Dixon.

Even today, at the age of 84, Tom Dixon continues his fight for social and economic justice with a strong, influential voice in equity efforts throughout the Pierce County area.


Dawn Sharp Olson Lucien (Local Mediator) and Admiral Eric T. Olson, US Navy, Retired (4-Star Admiral and Peace Keeper)

2014 Laureates

Nominated by William Lincoln, Norm Dicks, and Clare Petrich, Dawn Olson Lucien and her son Eric Olson have served our local community and our nation for over forty years, seeking in their respective careers community and international peace.

Dawn Lucien has merged the spirit and skills of advocate and conciliator – always civil, transparent, influential, and effective. In many ways she has been the conscience of the community. As district manager for Congressman Norm Dicks, she played a key role in the 1990 Puyallup Indian Land and Jurisdictional Claims settlement. In the mid-1980s, she was instrumental in bringing together the federal government, the Puyallup Tribe, the Port of Tacoma, the City of Tacoma and numerous local municipalities and private partners. In retirement Dawn maintains strong relationships with all parties and is an informal and meaningful advisor. She remains an advocate for the Pierce County Center for Dispute Resolution; she has been a tireless contributor to community-based efforts to develop a first-class graduate degree program in dispute prevention, management, and resolution at the University of Washington – Tacoma.

Eric Olson, Dawn’s son, is a 1969 graduate of Stadium High School and a 1973 graduate of the US Naval Academy. In a career of over 35 years, he rose to the rank of Admiral, the first Navy SEAL to be promoted to the four-star rank, and ultimately served as the leader of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOC). Twice decorated for personal valor in combat, Admiral Olson advocates for the “deeper understanding of the context of any conflict as a means to predict the effects of our actions” and he has been widely quoted for his statement that “we cannot kill our way to victory in today’s wars, so we must think our way to success.” Retired in 2011, Admiral Olson remains a thoughtful leader for a more balanced military force, one that considers linguistic and cultural expertise as essential. In 2012, as keynote speaker at Portland District Rotary ’s “Peace Is Possible” conference, he reminded listeners: “Going to war is a political decision, not a military decision.”  He currently teaches a graduate course at Columbia University focusing on the challenges of “turning down the heat” in a time of global friction.

Dawn Lucien and Eric Olson
2014 Dawn Lucien and Eric Olson

Together, Dawn Lucien and Eric Olson have been formidable advocates for nonviolent solutions to difficult conflicts. It is our honor to recognize these lifelong Tacomans as the 2014 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize laureates.


Sallie Shawl

2013 Laureate

Not one, but two respected members of the Tacoma community nominated Sallie Shawl for the 2013 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, which is indicative of the high regard in which she is held throughout our community for her continued peacebuilding efforts. Among many other achievements, Shawl founded a local chapter of the international group, Jewish Voice for Peace, which promotes a U.S. foreign policy based on peace, democracy, human rights, and respect for international law. She led the organizations Tacoma Arabs, Jews, and Others (TAJOS) and Palestinian-Israeli Peace Endeavors (PIPES).

Sallie Shawl
2013 Sallie Shawl

Through the Ground Zero Center for Non-Violent Action, she participated in protests against nuclear weapons at the Bangor Naval Base in Kitsap County. She formed the groups People for Peace, Justice, and Healing and United for Peace of Pierce County, and she was instrumental in the inauguration of the South Sound Peace and Justice Center.


Father William Bichsel, S.J.

2012 Laureate

Over 160 members of the Tacoma community came out to help celebrate the presentation of the 2012 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize to peace activist Fr. Bill Bichsel on June 2, 2012, at the Spring Banquet of the Scandinavian Cultural Center, Pacific Lutheran University.

 “Brunch with Bix” was a Great Success!

Over 80 guests enjoyed a delicious Norwegian-style brunch and heard 2012 Laureate Father William “Bix” Bichsel, S.J., report on his trip to Norway, where he attended the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. The brunch was held on Sunday, January 27, 2013, at the Scandinavian Cultural Center, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma WA.

Father Bix 2
2012 Father Bix
Father Bix 1

ARTICLES ABOUT FATHER BIX

Here’s an article by Helen Young, in the “Huffington Post,” in which she writes about Father Bix at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.

Tacoma Weekly article announced Father Bichsel as the 2012 GTPP Laureate

Plowshares article reported on the June 2, 2012, Award Presentation

LINKS to other articles about Fr. Bill Bichsel, 2012 Laureate

University of Washington Tacoma receives a Gift of Peace May 7, 2012

Seattle Times article 1998

Links to Articles written by Father Bix

Choose Life 2010

Lethal Force  2009


Dr. Donald Mott

2011 Laureate

In 2002, Dr. Mott, a retired pediatrician and orthopedic surgeon, was instrumental in the founding of China Partners Network.

CPN is a group of physicians, therapists, and professionals working in under-served regions of China to meet the medical needs of children with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders. Dr. Mott and others donate their talents, skills, and time to work with and to provide training to professionals in China, improving the quality of life for children and their communities.

Don and Beret Mott
2011 Don and Beret Mott

Since its founding, members of the network, in collaboration with the Amity Foundation of Nanjing, China, have traveled to China many times to conduct workshops and courses for orphanage workers, therapy students, medical students, physicians in rehabilitation medicine, traditional Chinese medicine physicians, and others. Thousands of children who live in under-served areas of China now have improved health because of Dr. Mott and his China Partners Network team.


Kim Ebert-Colella

2010 Laureate

Kim Ebert-Colella came to Tacoma as a Jesuit Volunteer and has continued to do peace work in all areas of her life. She volunteers at Bryant Montessori School, a racially and economically diverse school in the Hilltop area of Tacoma. She established Bryant as an International Peace Site in 2009.
Ms. Ebert-Colella established and continues to chair the Peace Committee at Bryant. The Committee, in partnership with “Pierce County Reads,” raised $9,000 in 2008 to send to “Pennies for Peace,” an organization which builds schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kim Ebert-Colella
2010 Laureate Kim Ebert-Colella

Each year, Kim helps the students at Bryant choose a peace-related theme for the year. In 2009-2010 the theme was: “Water: Peace in Every Drop.” Partnered with NorwexTrue Clean (which originated in Norway), the students conserved water in their school by procuring rain barrels, which were decorated and installed around the school. Classes went on field trips to the Puget Creek watershed to learn the connection between sewer, ground water, and Puget Sound. They provided opportunities for all the students in the school to learn about the impact of our storm drains on our watersheds and the salmon population

Another goal of the Peace Committee in 2009-2010 was to raise $6,000 for the ETTA Project, which helped a poor village in Bolivia start a community garden and get running water to homes and the school in order to improve health. The garden provides the children of the village with fresh vegetables to augment their meager daily diet.

Kim’s deep passion for helping people has taken her all over the world. Through the high school youth ministries at her church, St. Nicholas in Gig Harbor, WA, she traveled to the barrios of Tijuana, Mexico. She ministered to both the elderly and teens as a Jesuit Volunteer; traveled alone to Calcutta because she had always wanted to meet and work with Mother Teresa; joined a delegation of women who traveled to South Africa; and worked in Hospice centers and homes in multiple villages to fight the AIDS crisis.

Kim received her B.A. in liberal studies, with a minor in psychology, from the College of St. Benedict and earned a Master’s Degree in pastoral studies from Seattle University. She makes her home in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband Niko and son Sam.

“Kim brings peace to the kids she works with by helping them reflect on their own ability to be peaceful, within themselves and with others. She encourages them to think and act both locally and globally.” (Wynne Brown, Nominator)