Imbler grads win prestigious awards at Oregon State University

By Dick Mason, The Observer June 13, 2012 02:44 pm


Most members of the selection committee for Oregon State University’s prestigious Waldo-Cummins award probably did not know about Imbler High School earlier this year.

The odds are they do now. 

Two of the six OSU sophomores to receive the Waldo-Cummins Outstanding Student Award this year, Nick West and Ariana Snow, are Imbler High School graduates. The award recognizes academic achievement, involvement in extra curricular activities and leadership.

The Waldo-Cummins awards were presented at a ceremony recently attended by about 300 in OSU’s Memorial Union ballroom. 

Snow likely will never forget the pride she felt for her school and community when she and West were called on stage to receive their awards.

“It was so cool,” Snow said.

Snow is a 2010 IHS graduate majoring in marine biology who has a 3.82 cumulative grade point average. West is a 2009 IHS graduate with a 3.92 GPA majoring in bioresource research with an emphasis on biotechnology. 

West is in a pre-med program and wants to later become a family practice physician in the Grande Ronde Valley.

At OSU, West has been selected as an understudy for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute research program. As an understudy in this program, West will soon begin participating in a amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research project with OSU biochemistry professor Joseph Beckman, who will serve as his mentor. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a disorder of nerve cells that control voluntary motion. West will be helping researchers determine if certain specific protein mutations can lead to ALS.

West has been working as a volunteer at an OSU lab where ALS research has been conducted for the past two months. The OSU sophomore is also active on the campus life front as a leader of his Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

Snow has been assisting an OSU professor with coral reef research, studying the DNA of sea anemone. Snow will continue studying coral reef conservation next school year at a number of sites including Bonaire, an island in the Caribbean. Much of Snow’s academic expenses will be covered over the next two years by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ernest F. Hollings undergraduate scholarship she received earlier this year. 

Snow, who said she has been fascinated by marine biology since she was a child, will be examining the impact rising temperatures and acidity levels have on coral reefs. 

Her interest in coral reef conservation was piqued after observing one on an ocean coast and then returning several years later to find that it had vanished. 

Snow is the daughter of Mike and Marlene Snow of Summerville and West is the son of Russ and Mary West of Imbler. 

West, in winning the Waldo-Cummins award, continued a family tradition for his brother J.D. Cant won it more than 10 years ago. Cant is now a agri-science and wood and metal shop teacher at Imbler High School.

West waited a year before enrolling at OSU so he could serve as FFA state vice president. He had been elected in the spring of 2009. West said the year he spent as an FFA state officer helped him develop the maturity he needed before entering OSU.

“I would not have been ready for college,” West said.

He credits his teachers at Imbler with playing an important role in the success he has enjoyed at OSU. West said he believes that the excellent work small schools do in preparing students for college is often overlooked. 

His teachers included his mother Mary who taught him chemistry. Nick West credits her with sparking his interest in chemistry. 

The OSU sophomore hopes the success he and Snow are experiencing at OSU will inspire others at small high schools in Northeast Oregon.

“Even if you are from a rural setting you can still be successful at a big university.”