President’s Letter: September 2017

Welcoming the class of 2021 and saying goodbye to an old friend.

This fall, the University of Washington welcomes the class of 2021 to our campuses. It is the most diverse class in our history, and it includes the most first-generation college students. As with each new class, I’m inspired by the phenomenal potential that exists within all our students. I’m also reminded that our highest duty is to provide them with the teaching, tools and experiences to make a positive difference in the world.

Our students come from all corners of our state, nation and world, excited to broaden their horizons. Some know what they plan to study from the moment they arrive, while others need time to figure it out. And many arrive with one idea of their interests, only to discover different passions along the way. The UW provides room for discovery of all kinds, including the most important discovery for any student: learning what kind of citizen, neighbor, friend and person they want to be.

Our University is dedicated to nurturing intellectual curiosity, debate and independent thought. What-ever course of study a student pursues, from the arts to computer science—or some of both through our digital arts degree—she will develop her capacity for deep critical thinking. She will benefit from a talented, accomplished faculty challenging her to approach questions with scientific rigor, and she will have classmates whose lives and experiences contrast with and illuminate her own. She will learn to make up her own mind on the basis of evidence and reason.

As our incredible community of alumni and friends, you know this story well—you have taken your experiences on our campuses and in our classrooms, labs and libraries and used them to transform the world in ways both grand and intimate. Your ranks include alumni like Ted and Jer McGregor, who are preserving the endangered enterprise of local journalism. And Amanda Morse, who leads outreach for the Washington’s Rapid Health Information Network to help stop the spread of communicable diseases. And Nat Mengist, a garden manager who teaches Seattle children about growing and eating healthy food. In choosing their paths, these alumni have found ways to make a difference—for the benefit of all of us.

Sadly, this summer we lost one of our most giving and dedicated alumni: Jeff Brotman. For me, Jeff will always be a cherished friend whose guidance I will miss so much. His encouragement played a big part in my decision to throw my hat in the ring for the UW presidency.

Jeff was deeply committed to advancing our mission. At the time of his death, he was a co-chair of our current philanthropic campaign, “Be Boundless—For Washington, For the World,” because he believed passionately in expanding access to education and empowering students to pursue opportunity. Jeff would have been so pleased to know that of the more than 150,300 donors who contributed a record-breaking $562.7 million to the campaign this year, more than 80 percent gave gifts of $500 or less. The values he supported every day, of social justice and fairness, are core to the University of Washington.

His legacy will be felt forever. You can read a full tribute to his extraordinary contributions to our UW community as a philanthropist, leader and volunteer here.

You, too, play an invaluable role in advancing the UW’s mission through your engagement and support. I’m grateful to everyone, including more than 48,000 alumni, who have made generous and purposeful contributions to support students and the work of this incredible University through the campaign.

College is famously a time of self-discovery. At the UW, we nurture and cultivate that self-discovery in ways that honor our great public mission: to impact the world for the better. You inspire our students in all the ways that you live that mission as alumni and in your continued engagement with your University. Thank you for all that you do—we are so proud to call you Huskies.