As ambitious parents do these days, we took our oldest daughter, Maddie Foutch, on an East Coast college tour before her senior year of high school. We looked at small, liberal arts colleges, big city universities and some Ivy League schools. We toured Dartmouth with a professor-friend of my husband, David Foutch. We crossed Harvard Yard, after finding the statue in Cambridge of a distant relative, William Dawes, who rode with Paul Revere.
But when it came time to apply, Maddie had only one first choice: the University of Washington. I was surprised and a little annoyed. She had excellent grades and had been to nationals twice with her women’s lightweight crew. She’s energetic, passionate and has a great heart for others. True, I was biased, but I thought she could go to anywhere.
But I shouldn’t have been surprised. When I applied to the UW about thirty-five years earlier, there really wasn’t a choice for me, either. Both my mom, Shirley Dawes, and my grandmother, Gretchen Snow, were proud Huskies. Two of my good high school friends were going to WSU, but when I broached the subject, I recall a cool note of superiority and the message that, in our family, that just wasn’t done.
Both my mom and my grandma were impressive women whose homes as adults were characterized by a wall of books. Gretchen gradated from the UW in 1923, with a degree in Business Administration, when the campus was a handful of buildings and her professors included Edmond Meany, the legendary professor whose passion for history would be a life-long inspiration to her. Gretchen was active in the League of Women Voters, deeply interested in world events, and even after she lost her eyesight later in life, would enlist her grandchildren to read weighty tomes on foreign affairs.
My mom took her degrees in Economics and Business in 1947 and joined the U.S. Foreign Service. She served in Japan, Korea, Austria and Guatemala, before returning to Seattle and starting a family. Like my grandmother, she was deeply interested in the world, in the emerging independent nations of Africa, in the history of religion, in the civil rights movement and in justice everywhere. As an opinionated teenager, I learned that I’d better come armed with facts to a debate with either one of them.
I would like to think this legacy of strong, intelligent, engaged women, all graduates of the UW, played a part in Maddie’s decision to attend. But as I thought back, I realized that I’d been planting the seeds all along. There were trips to Suzzallo Library, when she was little, where we climbed the circular, marble stairs to the great reading room (which she thought was exactly what Hogwarts must look like). There were bike rides across the quad during cherry blossom season and the time we hunted for the hidden Sylvan Theatre and caught a brief nap in the sun.
And there were all those Husky games. When I was a girl, I watched the Huskies play every Saturday on TV and then, again on Sunday as sportscaster Bruce King relived each snap with Coach Jim Owens. I’d never been to a Rose Bowl and in 2001, leapt at the chance to take my family to sunny Pasadena where we cheered as quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo carved up the Purdue defense. And I lined them up on the living room couch in 2005 to watch as the Brandon-Roy led men’s basketball team was picked as an NCAA tournament number one seed. And then jumped around deliriously as if we’d already won all the games.
Maddie graduated June 9 along with several thousand students and more than 40,000 family and friends. When the last graduate crossed the stage, the siren that sounds after a touchdown at Husky stadium screamed though the air. Metallic purple and gold streamers fluttered from the upper decks. And spontaneously, students took up one last call and response, Go—Huskies!
Maddie was down on the field, degrees in Business and Environmental Studies in one hand, launching her mortar board into the sky with the other. I realized that where she would go to college was never in doubt.
Lynn Thompson is a reporter for the Seattle Times. She earned degrees in English and Communications from the UW in 1978.