Jeff Ferris Volunteer of the Year

Pete Choukalas
Graduated 1990
Owner and designer, Choukalas Design, LLC; Phoenix, Arizona

"I believe giving your time back to anything, whether a cause or your college, is important for all of us. There are several ways of giving, whether financially, with our hands, or through our jobs," said Pete Choukalas, 2011 Jeff Ferris Volunteer of the Year award winner.

Choukalas is being honored as Volunteer of the Year for his work with the College of Arts & Letters with the Take-a-Seat Campaign, a project to assist with fundraising to replace the seats in Ardrey Auditorium. In addition to providing personal funding to support the campaign, Choukalas served as a pro-bono designer to create a very compelling visual brand.

"Growing up, we had just enough to get by, but I remember when my dad would do the bills every month and no matter how tough things were he would always try and give $5 to a few different causes. I took those memories when I came up to Northern Arizona University, but with finances tight up in college I needed to give back in other ways. So Northern Arizona University is actually where I first really started giving back. Joining groups like Sophos and Blue Key inspired me to give back and help others whether it was cleaning a hiking trail, helping out with Special Olympics, or other numerous things."

"Being a Northern Arizona University alumni I always wanted to give back to my college. Giving financially is great but always wanted to do something else besides that and the opportunity arose to help out with Take-a-Seat and I couldn't pass it up."

Choukalas made several trips to Flagstaff to meet with Northern Arizona University staff and worked tirelessly to design numerous campaign advertisements, brochures, posters, flyers, and inserts. Those involved said they could not have completed such successful campaign publicity and materials without his excitement and passion for Northern Arizona University as well as his shared vision of renovating Ardrey Auditorium.

"Pete is the best kind of designer; he minds the details while outputting truly creative content, all while being extremely easy and fun to work with. His dedication to Northern Arizona University, his donation of time and talent on the Ardrey Memorial Auditorium Take-a-Seat Campaign, and his enthusiasm create an atmosphere of support and synergy. I would have been overjoyed to work with a hired designer of this caliber - and Pete did everything pro-bono. Pete is a dedicated family man, a successful professional, and a loyal and generous alumnus. He is the perfect example of an ideal Lumberjack," said Elizabeth Hellstern, marketing/PR coordinator for Northern Arizona University's College of Arts and Letters, who nominated Choukalas for the award.

"My favorite thing about being an alumnus is giving back and seeing the university grow, whether it's updating Ardrey, new classrooms, or growth in students coming. I know with budget cuts things haven't been easy, but to see Northern Arizona University continue to grow through all this and still be recognized as a top university is amazing," said Choukalas.

Choukalas was Northern Arizona University Homecoming King in 1989, received the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award in 1990, along with being honored as one of the Outstanding Young Men of America and receiving the Gold Axe Award that same year. He was also a member of Blue Key, Sophos, Northern Lights, and served as a residence hall assistant for three years while attending the university.

"I still remember going up to Northern Arizona University the first day to tour the University. I walked away knowing this will be a great home away from home for me," says Choukalas. "The people, the educators, everyone was amazing. I never had a day I didn't want to be there. Every day was something new. I walked away with a great education from amazing professors, a lot of friends, how to give back, and learned a great deal about life in general. Not a day goes by without me being so thankful for what I learned and received from Northern Arizona University."

The Northern Arizona University Alumni Association applauds Pete Choukalas with the Jeff Ferris Volunteer of the Year Award.

“Pete stepped up in a big way to help make the outreach campaign highly successful and take it to another level. His dedication and commitment are the reasons we love our many volunteers,” said Neil Goodell, director of Northern Arizona University Alumni Relations.

Photo: Pete and his oldest son Ryan in Ardrey Auditorium.