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Dennis Carlton - Distinguished Alumni 2023

The Wenatchee Valley College Foundation Board of Directors has selected Dennis Carlton as the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. The foundation received nominations for 12 alumni from across North Central Washington.

“This award was totally unexpected,” Carlton said. “WVC has been a part of me every step of the way. College should be a leaping point for everybody. Education is an opportunity to expand who we are and what we are.”

After growing up in Omak, Carlton enrolled at WVC in 1965 and attended classes on the Wenatchee campus since there was no Omak campus at the time. He said WVC professors made a significant impression on him.

“There were 55 Omak students that enrolled at WVC in 1965. But only five of us graduated in 1967,” Carlton said. “I decided to be responsible for myself. Are you a man or a mouse? That was my motto.”

After graduating from WVC with his associate degree, he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in education with an emphasis in business from Eastern Washington University. Carlton began his career in 1970 with the Omak School District teaching business classes through the DECA high school business and entrepreneurial program. He later taught business classes at the WVC at Omak campus. Carlton then changed careers from education to business. In addition to owning and operating a variety of Omak businesses, Carlton has worked as a New York Life Insurance agent for over 47 years, receiving a variety of awards and achievements from the company.

Carlton is known for civic-mindedness, community leadership, small business advocacy and mentoring young entrepreneurs. He has held many leadership positions such as president of the Omak Performing Arts Foundation, president of the Omak Chamber of Commerce, president of the Loup-Loup Ski Foundation, president of Rotary Club of Okanogan-Omak, board member of the WVC Foundation at Omak and chairman of the Omak School Board.

“Dennis has demonstrated time and again a commitment to his community. His successes have been grounded in a strong family upbringing, excellent education and a tremendous work ethic,” said Gary Carlton, Dennis’ brother, who nominated him for the Distinguished Alumni Award. “At 75 years of age Dennis continues to be an excellent role model for all ages.”

The WVC Distinguished Alumni Award began in 1975 to recognize alumni who have distinguished themselves in their chosen professional field; made significant contributions to their community on a local, state, national or international level; and have demonstrated integrity in their personal life and gained the respect of their peers. Recent recipients include community volunteer Darrell Dickeson (2022), Eastmont educator Jaime Ramirez (2020), NCW Libraries executive director Barbara Walters (2019), local entrepreneur Malachi Salcido (2018) and City of Wenatchee human resources director Kari Page (2017).