Federal Way Public Schools Alumni of Note
CEO Yakima Products, Inc.
Decatur High School
Graduate, Class of 1978
When asked who his most influential teacher was, Gerald Heinlen can’t name just one – he gives a list. Heinlen is a 1978 Decatur graduate and current CEO of the Yakima Products sporting gear company. He attended Federal Way Public Schools from kindergarten on up. And he met teachers who impacted him each step of the way.
At Lakeland Elementary, there were Jean Karlen and Dick Usitalo. At Illahee Middle School, there were Joe Anderson and Greg Goss. And at Decatur High School, there were Bob Mitton and Clarence Jasper.
“Clarence Jasper was one of the finest high school counselors to ever hold the job,” Heinlen said. “He worked tirelessly to get kids accepted into their desired colleges, universities and vocational training programs, and he had a particular passion for placing Decatur students at federal service academies. He typically helped 2-3 students each year from Decatur get accepted at the U.S. Military, Naval, Merchant Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard academies. I remember how one day when my application to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy seemed to be bogged down in bureaucratic red tape, he phoned the admissions officer there and told them if they didn’t get my appointment approved quickly, I was going to accept the offer I had just received from the Naval Academy. My appointment to USMMA was received in the mail a few days later. I don’t remember ever applying to the Naval Academy.”
These days, Heinlen is the CEO of Yakima Products, a popular brand of outdoor sporting gear based in Beaverton, Oregon. After high school, we went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nautical science from United States Merchant Marine Academy and an MBA from the University of Washington Graduate School of Business.
As a CEO, Heinlen exercises leadership skills that he began developing as a student in Federal Way. “I attended Federal Way Public Schools from kindergarten through all of high school, and the education I received gave me a great foundation for my future challenges. My teachers, coaches and staff members over the years helped me develop discipline, competitiveness, leadership skills and a love for learning,” Heinlen said. “I am appreciative of the education I received in Federal Way Schools, and I believe kids educated in the FWPS system today can achieve great things if they set high goals and work hard to achieve them.”For current students, Heinlen shares the following advice: “I believe education is one’s ticket to opportunity. I encourage students to take full advantage of the help, resources and advice offered to them through high school, and then choose a course of study they think they want to pursue in college and work hard to earn a college degree. Career paths will wander through many twists, turns and changes, but a person who is educated will always have opportunities to pursue.”