Curtis Takahashi named distinguished alumnus

Alumnus Curtis Takahashi had just come inside from working in his garden this spring when he decided to check his email. As he was scrolling through, a message titled “UW Bothell 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient Notification” caught his eye.

And he was the recipient.

“My first thought was that I had just been cc’d on the message,” he said. “Even after reading it a couple of times, I was still thinking to myself, ‘No way, there must be a mistake.’ I even verified the email it was sent from. I truly couldn’t believe it.”

Surprise selection

Part of the shock was that Takahashi is the awards and recognition chair for the University of Washington Bothell Alumni Council. In recent months, he had been on the selection side of the award, looking through applications and even suggesting nominees, not knowing he was one.

Tiffany Kirk, interim director of alumni engagement, said she and Alumni Council members had to work hard to keep his nomination secret as they moved through the selection process. “We kept giving Curtis delays, but behind the scenes we were preparing to announce him as a recipient of the award,” she said.

The award recognizes alumni who have exhibited distinguished community service or professional achievements since graduation. Mary Howisey, fundraising and events chair for the council, is also receiving the award this year.

“Having been on the Alumni Council for many years, I know what this award means — I can’t say enough about how honored I am,” Takahashi said. “I am so deeply thankful even to have been nominated, but to actually receive the award along with Mary, I mean, wow!”

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When Takahashi first went to college, he did it because he thought it was what he was supposed to do. He had just finished high school and didn’t know what he wanted to do the next day, let alone the rest of his life. But without a sense of direction, he decided to forge his own path, left college and entered the workforce.

Years passed, and he began to feel like he was hitting the glass ceiling in his work. “I had years of schooling but nothing to show for it,” he said. “I wanted more opportunities, and that meant I needed my degree.”

As fate would have it, one night Takahashi was driving in his car when an advertisement came on the radio. “Finish your degree at UW Bothell,” it said. That was just the push he needed to apply and soon after, he was accepted.

“At first, coming to UW Bothell was just about finishing my degree and counting down credits,” Takahashi said. “It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.”

He graduated in 2004 with a degree in Culture, Literature & the Arts from the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.

His Husky home

Since his graduation, Takahashi has been actively engaged with the Alumni Council and is one of the longest serving members. He currently is the awards and recognition chair.

“Curtis is, well, incredible,” Kirk said. “He’s doubled down on his commitment to UW Bothell over the years as a donor, former staff, volunteer and council member. For many years, he has led our scholarship award efforts, working diligently to support our students and recognize alumni.”

Takahashi said his favorite part is hearing from students about the impact Alumni Council scholarships make. “In a lot of cases, without the funding, these students wouldn’t be able to obtain their degrees and reach their dreams,” he said. “Knowing I helped make it possible for them is such an amazing feeling.”

For someone who spends so much of his time giving to others, Takahashi admits it can also feel nice to be on the receiving end.

“It’s great to be recognized for the work that you love,” he said. “I carry the mission of the Alumni Council in my heart and pursue this work out of my devotion to the University. I don’t do this for the recognition, but it is nice to be recognized.”

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