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Past Judges Profiles

Fraser Black Headshot DSC 4481BNWcr 300x300 - Past Judges ProfilesFraser Black, Chairman of the Board at Seattle Foundation

Fraser is the Managing Partner at Pioneer Square Investments, an investment company focused on early-stage startups and real estate projects in the Pacific Northwest. His more than 30 years of financial and general management experience in leadership positions at high-growth businesses includes serving as the Chief Financial Officer at ONYX Software, Group Manager at Ashton-Tate and Financial Analyst at Salomon Brothers. He has also served on the boards of numerous businesses including Lumera Corp. (LMRA), Washington Securities, Ballard Mill Properties, and Plexera.  Fraser is an active philanthropist in the education and environmental fields.  He is a board member or adviser with nonprofit organizations including Social Venture Partners, Seattle Foundation, IslandWood, Equal Opportunity Schools, Powerful Schools, and the Business Partnership for Early Learning.  He has an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a Bachelors from Harvard College.


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Rachelle Sharpe, Deputy Executive Director, Washington Student Achievement Council

Dr. Rachelle Sharpe serves as the Deputy Executive Director for the Washington Student Achievement Council, where she has worked for 11 years.  The Council supports the Governor and Legislature with educational attainment policy and program development, and works with K12 and higher education partners to align efforts in support of students. Rachelle has served as the senior director for student financial aid and support services, responsible for over $350 million in annual funding serving 80,000 students. Previously, Rachelle worked in student services for 15 years on two- and four-year campuses in the areas of financial aid, admissions.

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Keith Stier-Van Essen, Director of Programs, College Success Foundation

Keith Stier-Van Essen currently serves as the Director of Programs for the College Success Foundation’s Seattle office supporting the organization’s work in 4 school districts in the south King County region.  He has been working in the field of college access programming for low-income students for over 9 years. Prior to that he served in programs that support youth who had contact with the criminal justice system.  He is a proud alum of Seattle University where he earned his M.A. in Public Administration in 2013.  Beyond work, Keith loves to spend time with his partner and 5 year old son, is a cycling enthusiast and Sounders FC soccer fanatic, and enjoys getting involved in local neighborhood/community projects.


Independent Colleges of Washington

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Violet A. Boyer, President & CEO

Violet has served as the president and CEO of ICW since September 1998. Prior to her appointment, she served as assistant vice president for congressional and state relations with the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Violet joined NAICU after working in the U.S. Senate, most recently as the legislative director for former Sen. Kent Conrad (D- N.D.) She began her career as a teacher and has also worked in higher education administration at two independent colleges. Boyer received her bachelor’s degree from Dakota Wesleyan University, and earned a master’s degree from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Boyer counts student aid as key to her ability to complete college. A first generation student she received Basic Education Opportunity Grants (now Pell Grant), Work-Study, Perkins Loans, and state grants.

Boyer was the 2016 recipient of the Champion for the Liberal Arts in Washington State Award.  She currently serves on the Washington Student Achievement Council, the Executive Committee of NAICU State Executives, and is on the Board of The Coalition on College Cost Savings and represents Washington in the WICHE Regional Steering Committee of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement.


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Devon Crouch, Government Relations Assistant

Devon joined Independent Colleges of Washington in January 2014. Prior to working with ICW, he worked in clinical and translational research administration at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Devon earned his bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific University.




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Kris Gonzales, Director of Development

Kris became a great addition to the ICW team in April 2016. Previously with National CASA Association, she was their National Campaign Director and also held roles in corporate relations and fund development.

Prior to her posts with CASA, Kris spent more than 15 years in the financial services sector, most notably with Thomas Cook Group as Market Director for Western USA and Canada.


Council of Presidents

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Paul Francis, Executive Director

Born in Australia, Paul grew up in Tucson, Arizona. A first-generation college student, he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona (U of A) with a BA in political science. For the next few years he reviewed and assessed applications for admission and coordinated various programs for admitted students as an admissions counselor in the Minority Student Recruitment unit of the University of Arizona’s Office of Admissions and New Student Enrollment. He then returned to school, earning a Masters in Public Administration from the U of A.

Upon relocating to Seattle, Paul served as a senior admissions counselor with the University of Washington’s Office of Admissions. Prior to joining the Council of Presidents, Paul worked for the Washington State House Democratic Caucus for five years on higher education policy and general government fiscal issues. Paul serves as the representative of the public baccalaureate sector on The Washington Student Achievement Council and Governor Inslee’s Results Washington initiative.


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Cody Eccles, Director of Government Relations & Business Affairs

Cody came to the Council of Presidents in September 2013. Prior to working for the Council, Cody spent four years working for the Washington State Senate Republican Caucus advising policy makers on issues related to higher education, capital budgeting, and government operations. Cody holds a Baccalaureate in Business Administration for the University of Washington, a Juris Doctorate from Seattle University, a Masters in Tax Law from the University of Washington and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Washington Tacoma.

His primary focus has been in policy development, public policy, and statutory interpretation. Cody has worked in a variety of other fields including business to business sales, legal counsel to cities, and prosecution.