Kraft Honored for 'Priceless' Service to UWAA
When Don Kraft, '48, agreed to serve on the King County Alumni Club in 1963, he didn't know that he would be starting a 38-year love affair with his alma mater and its alumni association. Now chairman emeritus of the advertising and public relations firm Publicis, he was just starting to make a name for himself in the local advertising market.
Over the next four decades, while he created a formidable advertising firm, he also lent his formidable powers to communicating the needs of the University of Washington. The author of a UW public service campaign that still resonates 20 years later, he was also one of the founders of Columns magazine. His service to the University includes president of the UW Alumni Association in 1994-95, president of the Tyee Board in 1991-92 and terms on the UW Foundation and UW Development Fund boards.
Don Kraft's work on behalf of the UW is legendary. Photo by Kathy Sauber.
For his service to the UW, Kraft is the recipient of the 2001 UW Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor the association bestows on its volunteers and members. "Don brought intelligence, creativity and passion to every assignment he accepted for the University and our alumni association. Whether chairing the committee to rename and redesign Columns, playing a major role in the Campaign for Washington, or serving as Tyee and UWAA president, his impact has been positively remarkable. Don's combination of vision and leadership makes him a natural force that moves organizations to higher levels of achievement," says UWAA Past-President Geoff Vernon, '65.
Among his many contributions to the University, Kraft cites three that drew upon his communications skills. He created the public service campaign of the late 1970s and early '80s, "The University of Washington: You get something out of it whether you go there or not." Using his advertising and business connections, he was able to produce TV announcements that helped gather support for the UW during a fiscal crisis in state funding. "Even today, people still remember the slogan," he says.
Kraft was also the first chair of the Columns Advisory Committee. He helped set the tone of the publication when it was launched in 1989. "My feeling was that it ought to be good enough that someone would want to read it, even if there was no connection to the University of Washington," he explains. He was a key figure in changing the magazine's name from The Washington Alumnus to Columns. "We had done a study and found that at least 27 other magazines had 'alumnus' in their titles," he recalls. "But there was a huge argument over the name change. Half the board was traditionalist. But I felt that Columns referred to a unique part of the University of Washington. And there had been a magazine called Columns that older alumni had a connection with."
Kraft was also chair of the KCTS-TV capital campaign committee when the PBS station was part of the UW but looking for its own home at the Seattle Center. "Our goal was $2 million but we ended up with more than $3 million," Kraft says. "I felt really proud about that." The fund-raising was part of an overall campaign that raised $11 million and allowed the station to build a modern facility in the shadow of the Space Needle.
During his time as president of the UWAA, Kraft left a major mark on the organization. He encouraged the founding of the Multicultural Alumni Partnership, an award-winning alumni group that encourages diversity at the UW and among its alumni. He also helped launch the alumni career services program, now called Husky Career Advantage.
Of his many volunteer efforts, Kraft says that each had its own compensation. "And I wouldn't have done them all if they hadn't been fun," he says. "The longer your commitment is and the more involved you are, the more rewarding it becomes. When you total it all up, the time you spend is priceless."