Yakima Valley College is pleased to honor Kathleen Ashworth with the 2023 Emeritus Faculty Award. First presented in 1981, this award recognizes retired and retiring faculty who served at least 10 years of full-time employment at the college. A committee overseen by the President’s Office makes the selection from nominations submitted by students, faculty, staff and community members.
Ashworth served as a YVC faculty member for 34 years and was known for advancing the mission and goals of YVC’s Physical Sciences Department. In addition to instruction, she was especially dedicated to excellence in academic advising and curriculum development — providing leadership as the Physical Sciences Department Head, serving as the department’s scheduling lead and curriculum committee representative.
Ashworth grew up outside of Detroit. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in biology from Wayne State University. Following her studies, she began working at the Edsel Ford Research Institute — looking at the change in structure of the protein collagen in the glomerular basement membrane caused by kidney disease.
After three years of research, including daily use of radioactive isotopes, Ashworth switched to teaching at a community college. There she fell in love with the opportunity to work with students. For Ashworth the higher success rate of teaching rather than working with test tubes, proteins and radioactive isotopes was rewarding and convinced her to stay in teaching.
Looking for a full-time teaching position, in 1983 she saw a small advertisement for two chemistry instructors at Yakima Valley College and decided to take a chance and apply. That decision paid off when she was hired as the first female chemistry instructor into a two-person department. Ashworth became the lead in teaching chemistry to non-majors and working with students entering careers in healthcare, dental hygiene, nursing, nutrition, agriculture, radiologic sciences, veterinary technology and vineyard and winery technology.
“For me the best part of teaching was helping students who struggled in chemistry in high school or those who totally steered away from it be able to understand chemistry and go on and have a career where they can support themselves and their families,” said Ashworth.
During her tenure, Ashworth helped revise the college’s associate degree requirements, a change that allowed students in health fields to earn their associate degree while completing their health science prerequisites. In 2000, she was honored with the Robert M. Leadon Excellence in Teaching Award by the YVC Foundation.
Colleagues Jerred Seveyka and Matthew Loeser also commended her commitment to students and YVC’s program.
“Everyone that worked with Kathy knew how much she worked to advise students, especially the students intending to enter a BSN [Bachelor of Science in Nursing] program,” said Seveyka, a biology instructor. “She worked tirelessly to develop advising tools for them and she advised hundreds, if not thousands, of these students during her time at YVC.”
“Kathy was a major advocate for students and served them in many ways that were beyond normal duties,” said Loeser, a biology instructor. “She would assist students encountering difficulties in the transfer process to a university, extend her hours to assist in student advising and contact fellow YVC faculty when she learned that one of her advisees was having difficulty in another class. Kathy was not one to give up on a student that showed determination to succeed. Kathy would stay in contact with many students after they left YVC and would share their stories of success with great pride.”
For Biology Instructor Claire Carpenter, Ashworth’s interest in other academic disciplines made an impact on her own teaching and scholarship.
“Kathy regularly demonstrated an interest in other academic disciplines. I had many fruitful conversations about biology with her and found her to be knowledgeable and interested,” said Carpenter.
She retired in 2017 and has continued to stay active in the community volunteering for her church, helping make meals for the homeless, participating in poetry readings and book clubs and serving as a member for YES Neighbors — a support program for seniors in the Yakima area. Ashworth is also a season ticket holder for the Yakima Symphony Orchestra and The Warehouse Theatre.
The emeritus rank provides use of the library and participation in academic, social and other functions. The Emeritus Faculty Award will be presented during YVC’s Commencement ceremony on June 16.