When Matt Watkins graduated from Kennewick High School, he was prepared to take on the world.
He packed his bags for University of Washington, but quickly found it wasn’t for him. He tried again at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, but didn’t have much luck.
Turned out that the key to his future lay a little closer to home.
Columbia Basin College helped the man who would become Pasco’s mayor get his educational life straightened out. He earned his associates degree by taking night classes while he worked during the day.
“The traditional academics was hard on me, and I found actually I was a much better student working full time.” Watkins said. “I did it out of order, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but in my case, CBC was a very important part.”
The CBC graduate was recognized as Columbia Basin College Foundation’s Alumnus of the Year. The award is based on support of the college, community or a humanitarian cause, or someone who triumphed over adversity.
“Matt Watkins is a great community partner who not only supports the growth of our community in Pasco, but also the growth and development of our campus,” CBC president Rebekah Woods said.
After getting his associates degree, Watkins went on to get a degree in social science from Washington State University. He became a software engineer in 1997 and spent the past 21 years working at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
Watkins said CBC has been much more than just a college for him. One of his earliest memories is sitting in the school’s art building while his mother worked on ceramics. His second grade teacher, Marsha Halverson, attended the college and is a member of the foundation’s executive committee.
He returned to CBC in 1999 to teach Intro to Micro Computers and Intro to the Internet. His connection to the college only deepened when he was elected to the Pasco City Council in 2004.
He supported an agreement that sold about 5 acres of city property to the college for $796,000. The land is now the home of the college’s residence hall.
“So many intersections of my life have been with CBC, and I am sure it will keep being an intersection with my life,” he said.
The college continues to be worth the support, he said, because so many Tri-Citians start their post-secondary education there, and at a reasonable price.