Joanne Schwartz, Talia May Hansen to Receive Honorary Degrees From Centralia College 


Centralia College has selected two people to receive honorary bachelor’s degrees at the college’s 2022 commencement ceremony: former trustee Joanne Schwartz and Talia May Hansen, a 31-year-old student who died of COVID-19 in September 2021 before completing her teaching degree. 

Centralia College’s walk-through commencement ceremony is scheduled for Friday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Littel Commencement Field across from the clocktower at the college’s Centralia campus, located at 600 Centralia College Blvd.

In-person attendance is limited to ticket-holders, but the commencement walk-through event will be broadcasted live on YouTube. 

Visit for more information.

Joanne Schwartz

Joanne Schwartz served as a Centralia College trustee for 10 years and was named Trustee of the Year by the Washington Association of College Trustees in 2018. She was the first woman elected to the Lewis County Board of Commissioners and was a founding member of the Chehalis Foundation. She has served on numerous boards for nonprofit organizations such as Providence.

“Joanne was totally committed, giving 100% support to all aspects of the college's life and activities,” said Doris Wood-Brumsickle, chair of the Centralia College Board of Trustees. “She was a regular presence on campus attending activities, meetings and performances. In addition, she was sought out as a guest speaker by several faculty members and she took an active role in the state's trustee association. … Joanne is an exemplary civic leader who has devoted much of her life to supporting education in the Twin Cities.”

Schwartz will receive her honorary bachelor’s degree in applied management at 12:45 p.m. on June 17.

Talia May Hansen

Talia May Hansen, 31, was a dedicated and inspiring student in Centralia College’s teacher education program. She died in September 2021 of COVID-19, leaving behind a cohort of devastated classmates.

“While COVID-19 may have robbed future generations of students from knowing this phenomenal human being, we are determined that it not rob her dedication to serving children,” said program director Ann Grande. “Every future teacher in this graduating class has pledged to become the teacher Talia needed when she was a child. As a result, each future student taught by one of Talia’s classmates will be the benefactor of her dream to become the change she wanted to see in the world.”

Hansen’s assignments were so outstanding, they are now used as program examples for students in the classes that have followed her, Grande said. The program has also adopted Grande’s favorite expression, “Be the change,” as their motto, building it into their teaching and using it to remind students to apply Hansen’s level of rigor and dedication to assignments and her heartfelt interaction with students in the field.

“I never saw her without a smile. She let people talk. She never interrupted. She loved children and would have made an excellent teacher. She made the world a better place,” wrote classmate Kimberly Brazil.

Hansen’s mother, Cheri Anne Elwood, will accept Hansen’s honorary bachelor’s degree in teacher education at 3:30 p.m. on June 17.