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Michelle Obama invites UW alum Zach Davis to sit with her at State of the Union address

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How’s this for a domino effect?

UW alum Zachary Davis and his business partner, Kendra Baker, opened The Penny Ice Creamery in the summer of 2010 after working alongside the local office of the Small Business Administration in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Thanks to the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (federal stimulus funding), which increased the guarantee of a small business loan from 75 to 90 percent, Zach and Kendra were able to get the funds they needed to open their dream, an ice cream shop “done right.”

The Penny Ice Creamery, which opened in August, has been so well received that it continues to grow. Zach and Kendra are working 90 hours a week and are still hiring additional help. After the creamery opened, Zach, Kendra and crew put together a thank-you video to the government using Zach’s iPhone and the iMovie software. They did it all on a Monday, the only day the creamery is closed.

Zach, who earned a B.A. in comparative religion from the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies in 2000, says the video “is our story,” and that “we wanted to show how the ARRA helped one small business.” The video (above) got 97,000 hits on YouTube and ultimately made its way to the White House. That led to a call from Vice President Joe Biden, who thanked Zach and Kendra for their video (below).

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That’s not the end of it, either.

On Jan. 18, Zach and Kendra received a call from Michelle Obama’s office, inviting he and Kendra to attend a reception and the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. They flew to the nation’s capital on a Monday, sat in the First Lady’s box on Tuesday, and returned home to Santa Cruz on Wednesday “to scoop ice cream.”

While in D.C., they met the president as well as the director of the Small Business Administration. “I don’t believe a lot of people understand how stimulus money is spent,” Zach says. “I don’t understand all of it. But in this case, the ARRA allowed us a loan guarantee we needed. We believe in our commitment to the banks that loaned us the money, and to the taxpayers that we won’t fail.”

Dr. Peter Rhee, also a UW alum, was invited to the State of the Union address by President Obama. Rhee is the surgeon who treated Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and directed care for 10 other victims following the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson. Read our post on Dr. Rhee here.

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords surgeon is a UW alum

UW alum Peter Rhee is Rep. Gabrielle Giffords surgeon

Dr. Peter Rhee, who holds a master’s of public health from the University of Washington, is a 24-year military surgeon who has treated hundreds of battlefield injuries during stints in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That experience, the Los Angeles Times reports, played a definitive role in his ability to treat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and direct care for 10 other victims following the horrific massacre Jan. 8 in Tucson that has since captivated our country. Last night, during the memorial service for the six killed and more than a dozen wounded, President Obama told the nation that Giffords “opened her eyes” for the first time, and doctors feel her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head, is a “miracle.”

Rhee is chief of trauma at University Medical Center in Tucson. He also spent five years as the director of the Navy Trauma Training Center at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he would sometimes treat 30 gunshot wounds a day. Rhee told the Los Angeles Times of his battlefield casualty care: “Did it prepare me? I would say of course it did. And that makes it so that when we have a mass casualty of 11 people here, it’s really not as bad as it can get.”

From all of us in the UW’s alumni community, thank you Doctor.

You make us proud.

Photo by AP.

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