Lower Columbia College (LCC) and the Lower Columbia College Foundation (LCCF) are pleased to announce the selection of Kim O’Neill as the 2020 LCC Alumna of the Year.

Kim O’Neill

The annual LCCF award was created to acknowledge LCC alumni who have made significant contributions to the community, and whose accomplishments, relationships and careers have exemplified the legacy of excellence at LCC. 

Kim is a Longview native and graduated with an Associate in Arts and Sciences from LCC while in her twenties. She married and decided to become a stay-at-home mom to her three children: Fawn, William and Adriane. After going through a divorce and becoming a single mother, she knew it was time for her to find a career that would provide a good life for herself and her young children. Kim had wanted to be a nurse since she was a little girl, so returned to LCC and completed her nursing degree in 1987.

Kim shares, “I chose LCC because it was close to home, had one of the best reputations and programs in the state, and had good leaders.” LCC’s high caliber of instructors, small class sizes and student engagement provided her an educational experience that encouraged her to think big, as a world-citizen.  “This is something one may not expect from a small-town community college,“ she explained.

After completing her nursing degree, Kim began her career working in inpatient oncology at PeaceHealth. While there, she gained an incredible amount of knowledge and experience before finding her calling working for Kaiser Permanente’s oncology unit.  She remained at Kaiser Permanente until her retirement in 2011. Kim’s dedication to her career resulted in growing Longview Kaiser’s oncology unit from one chair to a full treatment center. While working as a navigator for patients, Kim quickly learned that their needs are sudden and unpredictable, requiring an immediate response of various support mechanisms. Kim developed this strength organically by helping to meet patient needs.

One career highlight for Kim was working with a pediatric oncology patient, the one thing she always said she could not do. The young patient recovered and later invited Kim to witness their high school graduation, wedding and birth of a child. Another highlight was when a patient nominated her for a Nurse Hero award in CURE magazine. 

Retirement was difficult for Kim. She missed the work, challenges, and patients. Her work was part of her spiritual path in the world. She soon refocused on her family, including husband, Dr.  Steve Chandler (they married in 2005), and grandchildren.  Other retirement activities include hiking, exploring the outdoors, and more recently, ballroom dancing. 

Two of Kim’s children also attended LCC. Her son, William, participated in Running Start, and her daughter, Fawn, graduated in 2017. Kim was excited to witness her daughter’s experience at LCC 30 years later and shares, “LCC continues to maintain the integrity of a high quality learning environment, challenging minds, and bringing students together.” Kim believes that returning to school as a young mother encouraged her children to pursue higher education. All three of her children obtained four-year degrees or higher.

Kim’s philanthropic support at LCC includes the student success fund, college success fund, and scholarship support through her P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Order of Women) Sisterhood, Chapter IL group, and through the scholarship created in her honor, the Kim O’Neill RN Nursing Endowed Scholarship.  Kim’s named scholarship was established in 2011 by Dr. Albert Luh and colleagues at Kaiser. Kim emotionally shares about the scholarship in her honor, “The scholarship with my name on it humbles me but also ensures ties to the college, while allowing me to give back some of what LCC has provided to me and my family.” 

Feeling connected to LCC’s mission, Kim is passionate about people and understands that as human beings, we have an obligation to be educated and to grow and learn, regardless of our circumstances. We have the opportunity to form community, together. She understands that many students come from backgrounds that lack opportunity, but make decisions to pursue a better life. “LCC is a beacon of hope for people.  Education allows them to change their life and create a better tomorrow, and it is absolutely within reach!  I support LCC because I believe it is a community responsibility to ensure LCC’s success is safeguarded to continue providing a vital resource for everyone in our community.”

“We are honored to present Kim O’Neill as the 2020 Alumna of the Year. Kim’s gentle nature, world vision and passion for LCC embodies the mission of the college. Kim’s work in our community as an oncology nurse and her ongoing support of LCC ensures a lasting legacy of hope, health and opportunity for every person in our community,” said LCC President Chris Bailey.

Kim will be honored at this year’s “virtual” LCC Foundation Horns & Halos Gala on October 1st. For more information about the LCC Foundation, LCC Alumni or to join the LCC Foundation Alumni Association, visit lowercolumbia.edu/foundation. 

For more information, please contact Kendra Sprague, (360) 442-2121 or ksprague@lowercolumbia.edu