Past Recipients: 1990-1999



Ray Robinson named top Tri-Citian

This story was published March 21, 1999, Tri-City Herald
By Melissa O’Neil Herald staff writer


A man devoted to higher education and to finding a new mission for Hanford was honored Saturday as the 1999 Tri-Citian of the Year.


Ray K. Robinson of Richland futilely tried to suppress a smile during the surprise presentation. But after a few clues – like someone who grew up in the South and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin – he realized he was the recipient of the Tri-Cities’ highest honor.


The 20th annual award was presented by the five Rotary clubs for “service above self” and for contributions to Tri-City economic growth and quality of life. About 380 people attended the banquet at the Pasco Doubletree Hotel.


“The person who should be receiving this tonight is my wife, Marilyn Robinson,” Robinson said, on the stage with his partner of 37 years. “Any honor I may have tonight is a dual honor.”


Robinson, 60, came to the Tri-Cities in 1961 to work for General Electric. He was with the Battelle Memorial Institute from 1965 to 1969, then with Exxon Nuclear from 1973 to 1983. For 11 years he’s been president of Ray K. Robinson Inc. – known as RKRI – consulting firm.


The nomination essay considered by the selection committee describes Robinson as “zealous, hard charging, sometimes impatient, but extraordinarily compassionate and always dedicated to the community … (he) is a crowning example of what’s really great about our community, a beacon that keeps on shining and leads us forward.”


Robinson’s service and leadership ranges from 1993-94 president of the Blue Mountain Council of Boy Scouts of America to a Tri-City Industrial Development Council board member from 1991-94. He’s been an active member of Central United Protestant Church since first moving here.


Robinson was chairman of the Advisory Council Tri-Cities, set up by Washington State University in 1986. The council worked to bring the branch campus to Richland.


Marilyn Robinson also is deeply involved in WSU Tri-Cities, as well as the Tri-Cities Corporate Council for the Arts. She is a WSU Foundation trustee ambassador, having served six years as a trustee, and he is a trustee. They set up the Robinson Endowment Fund to provide a perpetual source of money for the branch campus’ discretionary endeavors.


The economy has been a priority for the Tri-Citian of the Year. He founded the Tri-Cities Commercialization Partnership to speed up the commercialization of Hanford technologies and to create new business and jobs in the area. The group voluntarily disbanded in fall 1997 after five years.


He now is a leader in the therapeutic nuclear medicine industry and in efforts to bring some of that business to the Tri-Cities by restarting the Fast Flux Test Facility to make medical isotopes.


Changes such as the ones the Robinsons helped bring to the Tri-Cities fit well with the points made by the keynote speaker. Jane Fenton, a business consultant with State Farm Insurance in Seattle, talked about welcoming the changes to come with the new millennium.


Her advice for adapting to the coming changes included staying cool, taking the initiative, using action instead of analysis, to “try easier” instead of trying harder and to spend energy on solutions rather than worrying.


“Have faith in the opportunities,” she said, warning the alternative is cynicism and disempowerment. “Create an environment of hope, expectancy and optimism.”


Dean Strawn named Tri-Citian of the Year

This story was published April 25, 1998, Tri-City Herald
By Annette Cary and Melissa O’Neil Herald staff writers

A Tri-Citian with a reputation for being prepared was caught by surprise Friday night.


“The least someone could have done is warn me so I could have had a day to prepare,” said Dean Strawn, the 1998 Tri-Citian of the Year.


He took the stage to receive the award before a crowd of about 450 at the Doubletree Inn in Pasco, surrounded by about 20 family members and close family friends. They included his wife, former Benton County Commissioner Sandi Strawn, his two grown children and relatives.


The award, considered the most prestigious given out in the Tri-Cities, is presented by the area’s five Rotary clubs. But presenters joked this was the second year in a row the award had gone to a Kiwanian.


And what a Kiwanian. Strawn, 54, joined the organization 28 years ago and hasn’t missed a meeting since. He’s brought the same dedication to a long list of organizations since he came to the Tri-Cities in 1963, shortly after graduating from high school in Fruitland, Idaho.


“He does not just join an organization, but provides realistic and valuable hands-on leadership,” wrote Ann Philip, executive director of the Kennewick Chamber of Commerce, in a letter in support of his nomination. “He has always been more concerned with the success of our organization than in whether his opinion is popular or not.”


He was the founding president of the Kennewick Chamber of Commerce. He wanted small business to have representation in Olympia and strength within the community, said Sondra Wilson, president of Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Wilson nominated Strawn for the honor.


“Though he would not admit it, Dean deserves much credit for this organization’s success,” Wilson said.


The chamber recently gave Strawn a 10-year anniversary award, recognizing his behind-the-scenes commitment and quiet contributions.


Strawn’s leadership also is credited with revitalizing two Tri-City agencies.


As president of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau in 1990, Strawn recognized a need to diversify the economy. He led with a vision of tourism as a catalyst for economic growth and secured the bureau’s first five-year funding agreement with the cities, Wilson said.


His work as chairman of the board for the Private Industry Council changed that agency’s reputation.


“When Dean took over as chairman of the PIC board, the council was floundering,” wrote state Sen. Pat Hale in a letter to the nominating committee. “Torn by management problems, crippling conflicts and political controversies, the PIC’s very survival was in jeopardy.”


Strawn used determination and diplomacy to bring the board back to life, Hale said. He instituted a code of conduct and a conflict of interest standard.


“Should Dean have been interested in joining a group to collect glory or better himself, this would have been the last one on his list,” Wilson said.


Strawn’s pastor, Jerry Marvel of Columbia Community Church, praised Strawn for his commitment to the virtues that undergird community life: responsibility, honesty, work, faith and compassion.


One of his employees, Martin Esparza, attested to that compassion.


“My wife and I have been through some hard times when we’ve needed help,” he said. “When we thought we had nowhere to turn, Dean’s always been there for us.”


When Esparza’s father was ill, Strawn lent him money to go to Mexico to see his father and more recently lent him money to make a down

payment on the family’s first home.


Strawn has worked at Dependable Janitor Service since 1963. In 1970, he became owner and president of the service. About that time he became active in Tri-City business and civic organizations.


He’s served on the board of the Tri-City Industrial Development Council and helped organize the Tri-Cities Legislative Council, later serving three times as chairman.


He’s also served on the board of the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, the Association of Washington Business and the the Tri-Cities Good Roads Association. He was a charter member of the United Way Vintner Club.


“Dean is a true visionary, and he has applied his skills in financial analysis, strategic planning and citizen activism,” Wilson said.


Strawn “serves generously wherever needed, not just as a figurehead, but with a hands-on, can-do spirit, leading by example,” she said.

‘Great contributor.’ Longtime Tri-Cities business owner, civic leader dies

By Annette Cary Updated March 08, 2021 3:29 PM


A leader in the economic development of the Tri-Cities has died. Dean Strawn, 77, was named Tri-Citian of the Year in 1997 and was named Kennewick Man of the Year in 1998. He died Friday, March 5. “He had done so much and given so much to the Tri-Cities,” said Sondra Wilson, president of Travel Leaders, who nominated him for Tri-Citian of the Year. Strawn came to the Tri-Cities from Idaho in 1963 to take a night job at Dependable Janitor Service, where his brother worked. Just seven years later he and his wife, Sandi, had purchased the business. They owned it until selling in 2009. As he became a local business owner, he also became active in Tri-Cities business and civic organization. His community work in the Tri-Cities was often done quietly, behind the scenes. “He was always the voice of reason on any committee or board he served on,” Wilson said. “He always did his homework. He was a great contributor.” He helped organize the Kennewick Chamber of Commerce, now the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce. He wanted small Tri-Cities businesses to have representation with Washington state government and a strong voice within the community.

He served as the chamber’s first president and was on the board for 16 years. “He does not just join an organization, but provides realistic and valuable hands-on leadership,” wrote the late Ann Philip, then executive director of the Kennewick Chamber of Commerce, in a letter in support of his nomination for Tri-Citian of the Year in 1998.


“He has always been more concerned with the success of our organization than in whether his opinion is popular or not,” Philip said. Strawn also was credited with revitalizing the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau in 1990, recognizing a need to diversify the economy. He led with a vision of tourism as a catalyst for economic growth and secured the bureau’s first five-year funding agreement with the cities, said his nomination for Tri-Citian of the Year. One of his most recent leadership roles was a a founding board member of the Kennewick Public Facilities District, which was created in December 2000 to build and operate the Three Rivers Convention Center. Strawn served on the board for 12 years. The list of organizations with which he shared his time and business acumen is long. He served on the board of the Tri-Cities Development Council and helped organize the Tri-Cities Legislative Council, later serving three times as chairman. He served on the board of the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, the Association of Washington Business, the the Tri-Cities Good Roads Association and the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, including serving as president of its foundation. He was a charter member of the United Way Vintner Club. He served as treasurer of Columbia Community Church for 17 years. He was a member of the Kennewick Kiwanis for close to 50 years, rarely missing a meeting until he developed health problems in recent years. He was an active member of the group, helping with projects ranging from a car raffle to raise money to build the Tri-Cities Cancer Center to its work at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo, where the Kiwanis took and sold tickets, said Stan Case, longtime member of the Kennewick Kiwanis. Dean Strawn and his wife, Sandi, a former Benton County commissioner, raised two children in the Tri-Cities, Diona Schilling and Steve Strawn, and have several grandchildren. He died at Fieldstone Memory Care in Kennewick, and Mueller’s Tri-Cities Funeral Home is handling his arrangements. This story was originally published March 8, 2021 12:58 PM.


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Top Tri-Citian honored — George J. Jones humbly accepts annual award

This story was published April 27, 1997, Tri-City Herald
By MELISSA O’NEIL Herald staff writer

Persistent, yet soft-spoken.


Well known, yet behind the scenes.


George J. Jones is a modest man, and Saturday he’d planned to go trout fishing. Instead, friends baited him into going to the 1997 Tri-Citian of the Year banquet.


There, he was the catch.


“I’m very humble, I don’t deserve to be up here,” Jones said, minutes after he figured out he was the anonymous honoree.


Before the audience of 360 at the Pasco Red Lion Inn, Jones said he saw other people whose services to the community were equally noteworthy.


“I’ve just had longer to do it,” the 80-year-old said with a smile.


Then he realized what the announcement meant for the motor home already packed and ready to go. “Gosh, I won’t have time to go fishing at all.”


Jones lives in Kennewick with his wife of 58 years, Maxine. Their daughters George-Anne Kintzley of Kennewick and Penny Bayman of Everett, and his grandson Roy Kintzley, gathered on the stage while Jones accepted the honor. Also at the event were sons-in-law Dale Kintzley and Robert Bayman. Unable to attend were grandsons Rance Bayman and Lee Bayman and a 2-month-old great-grandson.


The award, sponsored by the area’s five Rotary Clubs, is given annually to the Tri-Citian who epitomizes “service above self” and has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contribution to positive development, economic growth and the quality of life in the Tri-Cities.


The Rotary clubs sponsor the award and the nomination process, but the recipient is picked by an independent committee.


Guest speaker Lee Bussard of Bellevue spoke – and joked – about the challenges he faces because of cerebral palsy. And how, despite his speech impediment and awkward gait, he’s not that different from other people.


“Whenever we deal with adversity, we grow longer legs for greater strides,” he said.


Jones is credited with helping the community and individuals take such strides.


He was nominated by Gary and Janet McEachern of Richland. Nine letters were submitted on Jones’ behalf, written by six previous award winners and three people who have seen his volunteerism firsthand.


“The original motto of Rotary International was, ‘He profits most who serves best.’ George is the richest man we know in our community in this aspect,” the McEacherns wrote in their nomination.


George and Maxine Jones moved to the Tri-Cities in 1947. They built a frozen-food locker rental business at 15 E. First Ave. in downtown Kennewick and lived in the apartments upstairs. After the 1948 flood, they expanded into meat cutting. They sold the business in 1975. It’s now Chuck’s Meat and Lockers.


The letters written about George Jones show his dedication to improving the Tri-Cities’ quality of life – from smiling at people while manning the Benton-Franklin County Fair entry gate to his instrumental role in gathering $200,000 for the East Benton County Historical Museum in downtown Kennewick.


The community’s health – physical and economic – has been his focus.


He was key in raising money for construction of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, Kennewick General Hospital and the Kennewick Family Medicine clinic.

He is in his 12th year as a Port of Kennewick commissioner, was a Consumer Credit Counseling Service board member for 10 years and was a volunteer business counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives.


Last year, Jones was awarded the DeMolay Legion of Honor by unanimous vote of the International Supreme Council of the Order of DeMolay. The award is the 3-million-member group’s highest honor for service to humanity. Also among Jones’ honors is the 1978 Kennewick Man of the Year award.


Perhaps lesser known examples of Jones’ service include:


Arranging for collection of coins thrown into the Columbia Center mall’s fountains, which are donated to Shriners Hospital in Spokane. Each month, he and Maxine clean, count and roll the coins before taking them to the bank. He also collects change from battery-operated piggy banks placed in 25 Tri-City businesses. The efforts raise about $20,000 a year.


Introducing the Pacific Northwest’s first Shriners screening clinic, to help find children in need of the medical care. He also drives children to the Spokane hospital when they have outpatient care appointments but no way to get there.


Thomas Moak, past president of the Kennewick Kiwanis, said Jones doesn’t join such organizations to “toot his own horn, but joins in order to serve his community.


“No job is too big or too small for George,” Moak wrote. “Because he does not do projects to make a big name for himself, he does not always get the credit that he deserves for his hard work.


“Much of what we take for granted here in the Tri-Cities is due to the persistence and leadership of George Jones. He has worked extremely hard and successfully so that others might find the Tri-Cities a better place to live.”

1991 - BUD DAZEY