Chris Steele was a 1982 graduate of Charles Wright. As a student, he threw himself into what Charles Wright had to offer. He played soccer, took an active part in Donn Laughlin’s drama productions, both backstage and onstage, and was a talented art student. He had a particular love for the outdoors, and those who went on trips with Chris recall his passionate enthusiasm for hiking and climbing. After a long fight with cancer, Chris passed away in 2002. In his memory, his family and friends have established an award to honor a Charles Wright staff member who has made an outstanding contribution to the school and its students and faculty.
The work done on behalf of CWA by this year’s recipient is seen by South Sound residents long before they even set foot on campus. Whether it’s a crisp and clean magazine advertisement or a compelling video testimonial on social media, her thoughtful dedication to the school’s brand and voice inspires families to see themselves as potential members of our community. Once here, families and alumni are privy to her inventive Ties layouts, fanciful event posters, sophisticated party invitations, and myriad print and digital pieces. She tailors every project to the needs of the occasion, partnering with coworkers across departments and divisions to develop fun and engaging designs for their intended audience. One such coworker says, “I’ve never known her to say ‘no’ to a request for help. She takes on each project we’ve worked on together with an open mind and gives my ideas thoughtful consideration. Her work with photos and videos, event themes, and even simply framing awards is always artistically and tastefully designed. She is a real asset to the cultural life of our school.”
Parents, guardians, and students are also the beneficiaries of her partnership. She supports volunteers for the Parent Association, Sports Boosters, and Arts Boosters, even going so far as to help with professional packaging and signage for Wayzgoose festival efforts this year. A visual arts teacher says, “She brought her production and design background and helped with every stage of the project. The students learned how to market their work and polish every aspect of their designs. She was instrumental to the success of this project, and my students really benefited from her expertise.” This teacher also says that as a guest speaker on logo design in the digital media course, this year’s recipient “spoke the lingo and shared real-life experiences. Having a professional visit the classroom made a huge difference.”
Ultimately, storytelling is at the heart of everything she does. Another colleague says, “She exhibits an incredible blend of creativity and practicality. Her ability to get to the heart of a message and imagine the most impactful delivery astounds me on a regular basis. Watching the wheels turn in her head and the designs unfold on page or screen is magical—I often call her a wizard. She is invaluable.”
A member of CWA’s staff since 2013, this year’s recipient of the Chris Steele Award for outstanding service by a staff member is Amy Senftleben.