UW’s greatest hits loaded with golden oldies

I used to have no mercy when I picked up a “greatest hits” CD in a record store. I almost always would find fault with the producer or recording artist making the selections. They had left off what I knew was a seminal song (Sinatra singing “The Lady Is a Tramp”)—or added what any true fan could tell was worthless filler (the Beatles’ oddity “You Know My Name, Look Up My Number”).

Today I have a greater sympathy for those projects. For the past three months, Associate Editor Jon Marmor and I have been trying to put together our own selection of greatest hits—101 achievements by UW faculty, alumni, staff, students and even the institution itself.

The timing for such a list couldn’t be better. We can give our readers a break from gloomy national and international events. With a serious budget deficit hitting the state, we need to remind lawmakers and citizens of the value of the first public university established on the West Coast. And since this issue marks the 95th year the UW and its alumni association have published a magazine (only one magazine in the state is older), a special feature should celebrate this milestone.

As soon as Jon and I began combing our files and seeking out UW reference materials, realized that we would have to either expand the pages dramatically or limit the list to a manageable number. As much as we would have liked to make this project similar to a CD “boxed set” of hits, we couldn’t afford the extravagance. So we set the limit at a familiar number used by many list makers—101.

Now came another hurdle: what exactly is an “achievement”? The dictionary was a start. “The act of achieving or performing; an obtaining by exertion; successful performance; accomplishment,” read one definition. “A great or heroic deed; something accomplished by valor, boldness, or praiseworthy exertion; a feat,” said another.

We then set some additional criteria: the achievement should be recognized by an authority outside of the UW; in most cases it should be national or international in scope; the achievement has actually happened and is not in the planning stage; and it should be a specific act or item, not loosely defined.

Rather than run one long list, we found that the achievements fell into certain categories, such as inventions, awards, rankings, firsts and something we call “great feats.” We created separate lists and then asked a group of alumni, faculty and staff to guide us in the final selection.

These panelists were L.G. Blanchard, director, Health Sciences/Medical Affairs News and Community Relations; Brewster Denny, ’45, dean emeritus, Evans School of Public Affairs; Marilyn Dunn, ’81, director of strategic initiatives, Medical Affairs Development; Deborah Illman, ’76, assistant professor, Technical Communication; Nancy Joseph, editor, Arts and Sciences Perspectives; Don Kraft, ’48, past president, UW Alumni Association; Nancy Nash, retired associate director, UW Alumni Association; Gary Oertli, ’70, ’72, president, UW Alumni Association; Jean Reichenbach, ’58, ’81, retired associate editor, Columns; Gary Lundell, reference specialist, University Libraries; Bob Roseth, director, News and Information; and David Wu, associate vice president, Development and Alumni Relations. Without their help, this project never would have happened.

The final cuts were hard. In the inventions category, we had to drop the Cheerios popping gun and Ping golf clubs—both invented by UW alumni. Among the many UW “firsts” is the fact that the Territorial University Building erected in 1861 was the first school building in the city of Seattle. But that factoid was also dropped.

What is left are the editors’ choices—not an official list—of what we are calling “Lasting Legacies.” If you have any additions, send your suggestions to us (contact information is at the top of this page in the green box). Like listening to any greatest hits CD, you might find some choices questionable. But we promise that this list of golden oldies proves the UW is not a one-hit wonder.