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“I feel really strongly that if you’re going to enjoy the activities and the events, and be a part of an organization, that you need to be a card-carrying member.” — Ty Okamura

Think you have to be a UW alum to be a UW Alumni Association member? Not the case — the only requirement for being a member is loving the UW! In fact, almost 10,000 of our 56,000 members didn’t graduate from the University of Washington.

Our non-alum UWAA members count among some of our most passionate. Some are even leaders in the organization. Ty Okamura may have graduated from Gonzaga, but she’s found a home with the UWAA. She’s president of the Portland Huskies chapter and a life member.

Learn what brought Ty Okaumura to the UWAA.

Member Profile: Ty Okamura

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Ty throws dubs up with Harry the Husky.

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up east of the mountains in Harrington, 15 miles southwest of Spokane, and graduated from high school in Pomeroy. I’ve loved the UW since I was six or seven years old. My dad graduated from the Pacific Coast Banking School at the UW in 1964. I seriously thought about going to the UW, but going from a small rural community to Seattle was a bigger step than I was ready to take in 1965.

I started out at Gonzaga and moved to Portland. I did intensive care pediatric nursing for about 10 years. I was volunteering at a school and was asked if I could set up the counseling program. So I went and got a second undergraduate degree at Marylhurst University and then my Master’s in Education at Portland State University. In my career transition from nursing to education, I was able to do some courses with Dr. Streissguth and Dr. Banks from the UW.

How did you become a member?

When my late husband (Carl Okamura, ‘68) and I moved to Arizona, we became active with the Phoenix chapter, because that was the only way we could watch football games. I feel really strongly that if you’re going to enjoy the activities and the events, and be a part of an organization, that you need to be a card-carrying member.

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Ty and volunteers at UWAA Member Night at Nike, a signature event for the Portland Huskies chapter.

How did you decide to take an active role in the UWAA?

When we came back to Portland in 2002, there was a group of people who were trying to get the Portland chapter back up and running, and I was a part of helping out with that. I think my first job was being in charge of the game parties, and then I moved into a higher leadership role. I’ve been chapter president since 2006. We’ve been pretty stable since 2002, which is really encouraging.

Portland used to be a very Duck-dominated, Husky-unfriendly place. Now there are so many more of us around supporting our school loyalties. You put a W or a Husky pin on something and people are like, “University of Washington? Are there very many down here?” We say, “Yeah, there are 7000” — so we’re much more of a presence than we used to be. The leadership team is all out there recruiting and telling them we have events like Member Night at Nike or an event we did with the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland Art Museum. We’re always trying to find events that are family-oriented and not only sports. We’re going to be able to award a scholarship soon, which is nice.

Why do you love the UW?

I like the fact that the UW has a broader perspective on the world and life. I love what it stands for and I love its history. President Ana Mari Cauce has got to be the most outstanding role model and president.

I’m planning on getting my fourth degree or a certificate in Multicultural Education from the University of Washington, because that was my focus in the school of counseling and I’ve done a lot with various immigrant and migrant refugee communities. I decided to do it at the UW because I dearly love the University of Washington. If you want a good education, you go to the University of Washington.

Be like Ty. Be a member. Find out more about UWAA membership opportunities for everyone.