Remembering the Spratlens: scholars and advocates for people of color

They were scholars, professors and community builders. Thaddeus Spratlen and Lois Price-Spratlen were the UW’s academic power couple—each excelling in their own discipline and both opening up opportunities for students and faculty of color across the University.

The University of Washington was fortunate to have been the site of their scholarship and at the core of their careers. Lois Price-Spratlen died in 2013, leaving a legacy of outreach and leadership, having served as the University ombudsman as well as faculty in the School of Nursing. And this summer, with Thaddeus Spratlen’s death in May, the campus found another opportunity to remember and celebrate the pair.

Lois was the first woman and first person of color to be ombudsman for the University. Thaddeus was the first Black professor in the business school. The couple met when Thaddeus was stationed in Virginia before departing for the Korean War and Lois was a nursing student.

After the military, Thaddeus earned a Ph.D. in marketing from Ohio State University. He then landed a tenure-track position at Western Washington University in 1962, which was followed by a sabbatical at UC Berkeley and a job at UCLA. In 1972, the Spratlens returned to the Northwest to raise their family. Thaddeus had joined the faculty at the UW Foster School of Business and Lois was homing in on her graduate degree.

Lois had already trained in nursing and held a master’s in community health from UCLA. She next turned her energies toward a doctorate in urban planning at the UW, which she completed in 1976. In 1985, she earned certification as a psychiatric mental health nurse. She was asked to serve as the UW’s ombudsman for sexual harassment in 1982 and full ombudsman from 1988 to 2009, all the while working her way to becoming a full professor of nursing in 1992.

She was a leader in the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Association, an organization for Black nurses, and wrote “African American Registered Nurses in Seattle: The Struggle for Opportunity and Success.” Even after retiring in 2009, Lois still served students and the community. Much of her effort focused on scholarships and mentorship through the Mary Mahoney organization and through the UW Multicultural Alumni Partnership.

Meanwhile, among his projects, Thaddeus created a program in the 1970s to connect students with underrepresented and minority owned businesses. While the students learned through the projects, the businesses received much needed support. That innovative program evolved into the Consulting and Business Development Center, which has helped hundreds of minority owned businesses in Washington.

The Spratlens left a legacy of support for new generations of students and nurses through the CBDC and the Lois Price-Spratlen Foundation.