Alumni: Fall 2019
Author: Kellie Fields and Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: September 24, 2019

A full-bodied life

HARVEST time at Sokol Blosser Winery draws people from all over the world to come work in the vineyard. Handpicking the grapes together inspires great camaraderie, but the volume of work also makes for an intense time. For Alex Sokol Blosser ’97, MBA ’03, co-president and winemaker of Sokol Blosser Winery, this is his favorite part of his job.

“The intensity during harvest forces me to focus and I appreciate that,” he says. “We’re making something delicious and fun and, as much as it wears me out, it’s rejuvenating.”

Sokol Blosser was raised on the vineyard and participated in his first harvest by the age of 11. His parents had bought the property in 1970 and planted Pinot Noir vines the following year.

At the time, Oregon had no wine industry, and his parents didn’t view the winery as a feasible multi-generational business, which led to Sokol Blosser toying with various career options after high school. He trained as an Air Force reservist and worked as a foreman at another vineyard. After brief stints at other universities, he enrolled at PSU, where he paid for his own education and majored in philosophy.

“It really taught me how to think,” he says. “Philosophy trains your mind to not get carried away by surface explanations, to dig deeper, ask questions, and gain more understanding.”

UPON graduation, Sokol Blosser’s mother suggested he try selling wines, and he worked at a beverage distributor. He then came back to the family winery to work with distributors and run the financials, and he subsequently obtained his MBA at PSU.

Sokol Blosser’s sister, Alison ’00, eventually became the winery’s CEO and head of sales, which freed Sokol Blosser to return to his first love: wine production. He says winemaking is a mix of understanding the seasons, working with the land, and positioning oneself to make something special and compelling, which takes both science and art. He likens it to a baseball game.

“Mother Nature is always changing up the pitches she’s throwing you,” he explains. “My job is to make at-bat adjustments and move the runners. I draw from all the lessons I’ve gained over the years to make great wine, but I’m constantly learning and being humbled.”

Now, Sokol Blosser blends his affinity for PSU with his love for winemaking. In addition to serving on the PSU Foundation board for three years, he donates wine to various PSU events and occasionally hosts events at the winery. “PSU helped me tremendously, he says, “and I’ll be forever grateful.” —Article by Kellie Fields and photo by Erin Berzel.

Alumni in the news

Mike Richardson ’77, founder of Dark Horse Comics, received a PSU Presidential Medal in July for his professional achievements and support of PSU. He has donated all materials produced by Dark Horse to the library, and this past year, provided scholarships for every member of the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Doug Merritt '78 is founder and CEO of Headset Advisor, a nationwide provider of wired and wireless headsets for business professionals. He started the company following a successful 16-year career at Pitney Bowes.

James A. Patterson ’84 is the new executive vice-president and chief communications and experience officer of Oregon State Credit Union.

LeAnne Bremer ’86, a partner at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn law firm, was appointed to the board of directors for Educational Service District 112, representing schools in Ridgefield, northern Vancouver and Battle Ground, Washington.

Rick Miller MBA ’91 was awarded the PSU Presidential Medal during The School of Business June commencement ceremonies. Miller is co-founder of Rogue Venture Partners. He and his wife, Erika, contributed $9 million to the Karl Miller Center, named in honor of his grandfather.

Ronda Groshong ’92 officially became Beaverton’s interim police chief and the first woman to lead the 185-member department in July. She joined Beaverton Police as an officer in 1995.

Ebony Sloan Clarke MSW ’01 is the new director of Multnomah County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division. Clarke has been deputy director since 2014 and acting interim director since August 2018.

Lavert Robertson ME ’01 is the new CEO of All Hands Raised, a nonprofit which began as an arm of Portland Public Schools Foundation and now works independently to ensure racial equity and quality education throughout Multnomah County schools and community colleges.

Rodrigo George MIM ’13 received one of Bonneville Power Administration’s highest honors: the 2019 Achievement in Environmental Protection Award. He is a policy analyst in BPA’s Environment, Fish and Wildlife Office.

Katie Boos ’16 was hired as the Lakeridge High School softball coach in Lake Oswego in July. She was the hitting and outfield coach at Concordia University.

Grace Tumwebaze ’19 left in June for the East African country of Malawi to be a health volunteer for the Peace Corps during the next two years.

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