Alumni Spotlight - Dellers

Three generations of EvCC Alums

By Dana Chrysler
Everett Community College Alumni Outreach Specialist

The year was 1970 and Mike Deller had just laid eyes on the love of his life at Everett Community College (EvCC).

“The worst pick-up line ever,” Mike laughed while describing his most memorable moment at EvCC. “I asked if I could buy her a hot chocolate.” Fortunately, the young woman said yes, sparking the beginning of a relationship that has resulted in 39 years of marriage and counting.

A 1971 graduate of EvCC, Mike Deller has a lot of memories wrapped up with the college.

“I think the college was an anchor for a lot of things for me,” he mused. Mike credits serendipity—happenstances in life that ultimately end in great rewards—with playing a role in the paths he’s taken.

“I wouldn’t be married to who I’m married to now and I had the opportunity to play college sports, but it wasn’t until my professional career that I realized how something has always kind of pulled me to the college,” he said.

Mike’s involvement at EvCC may have been helped along by his dad, Bill Deller, who was dean of students at Everett Community College during Mike’s time there and who later established the EvCC Foundation.

“My dad was on campus while I was a student and that was always kind of tricky—my teammates and I would be in the cafeteria playing poker and we’d have a book nearby for when someone would yell, ‘Here comes the dean!’” Mike recalled.

Bill Deller said that happenstance played a part in bringing him to Everett in the first place. In 1950, Bill and his wife were on their way to Oregon for a new job when they stopped to visit Bill’s parents. By chance, his brother was visiting at the same time and told Bill that he knew of a better paying job with Alaska Airlines in Everett, Washington.

“So I came up and that’s how I got here,” Bill remembered. “It was the wrong job, but the right thing happened to get me here.”

Bill eventually landed at EvCC in 1964 and was made director of athletics. As time went on, he was responsible for the golf team and starting the first college swim team, finally becoming dean of students, a position he held until he retired in 1983.

Bill presided over the EvCC student body during some of the most tumultuous times in the country.

“There were sit-ins, war protests, and hassles over race issues for a couple of years,” he said. “During the sit-ins, they’d sit in Olympus Hall and I had to walk through them to get to my office.”

Mike remembered his dad as one of the few administrators trusted by both the black and white communities to arbitrate campus disputes. Accordingly, Bill was asked to head the Black Student Union organization.

After graduating from EvCC, Mike moved to Central Washington University, where he played baseball, aspiring to be the next Mickey Mantle. When a rotator cuff injury ended his athletic dreams, he set his sights elsewhere, receiving a bachelor of arts from Central and later, a masters in public administration from Seattle University.

Mike has an extensive and impressive job history, spanning a real estate career, working as district director for then U.S. Representative Maria Cantwell, CEO of the Port of Everett, president of EverTrust Bank and the Bank of Everett, and his current position as the Washington State Director for the Trust for Public Land. He has been involved in numerous Everett-area community organizations, but considers his involvement as chairman of the EvCC Foundation the most important.

“Dad started the foundation in 1984 and when I became president of the foundation, it meant a lot to me,” he said. Bill’s pride in his son’s involvement with the foundation is evident.

“It meant a lot to me, too,” he added.

It seemed almost a given that Mike’s son, Brett, would attend EvCC as well.

“It was an easy choice,” Brett said with a smile. “I signed a letter of intent for EvCC during the state basketball tournament my junior year of high school. My good buddy and I were just a couple of gym rats and Coach Larry Walker told us we could shoot all we wanted—and we did.” He admitted that he didn’t realize the extent of his family’s involvement at the college until after graduating from high school.

“I knew that my grandpa was the dean of students and that my dad played baseball there, but it didn’t come out until after I graduated how deeply involved they were in the school.”

Brett called to mind when Mike took him to meet EvCC instructor Chad Lewis.

“Mr. Lewis told me about the year he didn’t have enough money to buy his family a Christmas tree and my grandpa got him a tree. There weren’t very many teachers or administrators who didn’t know my dad or my grandpa.” There was an added benefit to his family connections as well: “When I went there, I felt like I had a lot of people looking out for me,” Brett said.

Brett left EvCC to attend Washington State University. When he returned to the Everett area, he met a man from India who has remained one of his best friends and mentors. Brett’s new acquaintance worked at Microsoft and offered him an interview. Although Brett admitted to the interviewer that he knew nothing about databases, his potential was evident—he was hired to work at Microsoft. Brett’s experience at Microsoft eventually led to his current position as an account manager for TEKsystems, handling the Microsoft account.

The Dellers’ enthusiasm for EvCC is hard to miss. Reminiscing on his college experience, Brett related, “My days there were some of the happiest, most enjoyable times in my life. When I think of EvCC, I think of community, family, and pride.”

Mike was quick to agree.

“I spent a lot of my career trying to build a better community. You evaluate the assets in a community, from industry to parks and recreation to education. EvCC is not only our educational facility, it’s a great community asset,” he said.

Bill, Mike, and Brett Deller never could have imagined where the road would take them when they first embarked on their college journeys.

“As you get a little bit older, you think about some of the decisions you’ve made,” Mike reflected. “You look back and say, ‘Wow, I guess that was a good one.’”

The Dellers acknowledge that the happenstances in life have brought them great rewards. Perhaps Bill expressed it best: “When I think of EvCC, I think of joy and happiness.”