June 2009 -

We've Been Here Before

Mark A. Emmert, '75

As you may have heard, the torch was passed this month at the UW Alumni Association. Paul Rucker took over as executive director, succeeding Chuck Blumenfeld, who retired after years of service to our alma mater as the UWAA's executive director and in other capacities. We are very grateful for Chuck's longstanding dedication and passion for all things UW. Likewise, we look forward to watching the alumni association continue to be a vital connection between the University and our alumni community under Paul's leadership. Paul has a wealth of experience in higher education, and there is no doubt in my mind that he is utterly committed to the University of Washington. He is a Husky twice over (earning a B.A. in '95 and an M.P.A. in '02), and I have great confidence that he is exactly the right person to lead the UWAA forward.

During these tumultuous economic times, the notion of moving forward might be unimaginable to many people. In the midst of difficulty, there's a natural tendency to hunker down and focus only on the immediate adversity and doing what one can to get through it. At times like these, history can provide a valuable perspective. When considering the current challenges facing our University, it can be helpful to look at them in the context of what we have faced in the past.

In its early days, the UW struggled just to keep its doors open and, in fact, actually had to shut down on a number of occasions. The process of relocating from the University's original downtown site to our current campus was painful in many ways. And, of course, like other American institutions, we have gone through the sundry ordeals that have been part of our national experience, including world wars, the Great Depression, the Red Scare and quite a few recessions.

When I consider these trying periods in our University's history, the most salient fact I take away is that the UW remains a great treasure for our state and nation. Indeed, in spite of all of the challenges and adversity we have faced, our institution has emerged from each situation stronger, more energetic, and more invigorated than before. And we will again.

The centennial anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition is a great opportunity to remember how far the University of Washington has come and to imagine how far we can go in the next 100 years. While the current economic crisis is a fairly significant bump in the road, history tells us that we will get over it. Knowing what we were in 1909, and what we have become in 2009, I see no reason to expect that our growth will abate in either quantity or quality.

As we enter the next 100 years, the University's core values of integrity, diversity, excellence, collaboration, innovation and respect will continue to guide our vision. We can expect to see many victories in the classroom, in the laboratory, on the stage, on the playing field and in the lives of our alumni. But we also know that there will be drama and even tragedy—just as assuredly as we know that this remarkable University will persevere through it all.

Mark Emmert signature
Mark A. Emmert, ’75, President