Alumni President Says UW Must Stay Competitive to Survive, Thrive Print

UW Alumni Association President Gregg Blodgett.
UW Alumni Association President Gregg Blodgett, '76. Photo by Mary Levin
For someone who knew he wanted to be a Husky since age six—and who has attended every UW Rose Bowl game since 1978—Gregg Blodgett, ’76, had a problem. He fell in love with an alumna of the University of Southern California.

His wife, Jane, once gave legendary UW Football Coach Don James a Trojan doll as a gift when the couple were invited to dine with the coach. Press a button and the doll played the annoyingly repetitious Trojan fight song.
“Coach James graciously took the present and then drop kicked it across the room,” recalls Blodgett. “We all laughed—even Jane.”

While he has always loved the University of Washington—“I never even thought about going anywhere else,” the Seattle native says—living with a Trojan may have encouraged him to strengthen his purple and gold ties. Since 2000, Blodgett has been a member of the UW Alumni Association Executive Committee, and this month he takes over as president of the UWAA for 2006–07.

He will represent more than 300,000 living alumni at regents meetings, speak at hundreds of alumni events, and guide the overall direction of the UWAA.
“The alumni association is hitting its crest,” he says. “It was once a rather sleepy organization. Now its outreach and programs are much more visible.”

Blodgett is also upbeat about the UW. He is particularly impressed with the new team of President Mark Emmert, ’75, and Provost Phyllis Wise. “One thing is very clear. The UW continues to evolve its instructional methods,” he says. What used to be “lecture-write-test,” he says, now involves much more active learning. With team projects, internships and service learning opportunities, it is an experiential education that makes students much better prepared.

And while he praises the ongoing success of the $2 billion Campaign UW: Creating Futures, he says it is the state’s turn to support the UW. “I can’t imagine the Northwest and Seattle could function with a second-rate university,” he declares. “We simply have to find a way to fund it to keep it competitive with its peers.”

Blodgett knows a lot about funding major organizations. He graduated summa cum laude with a business degree in accounting plus another major in Spanish. After working for Deloitte & Touche and Rainier Bank, he decided that he didn’t want to be a “smaller cog in a bigger wheel,” so he left the banking industry for the technology sector in the early 1990s.

It was a heady time. Two weeks before his first day as chief financial officer for the medical software company PHAMIS, the board decided to launch its initial public offering. “I didn’t have a desk and within a couple of weeks I was on the road, helping to sell the deal to Wall Street. The IPO went off with a bang,” he recalls.

At another firm, the board debated for an hour whether adding the words “dot com” to the end of the company’s name would increase its market value, and by how many millions of dollars. “It was an intoxicating moment,” Blodgett says, but he had doubts about the technology bubble. “I was a little more skeptical than most. I kept asking myself, ‘How could a business with no revenue and no profits command these valuations?’ ” he says.

Blodgett worked for several other technology start-ups during the ’90s and is currently the CFO for Twisted Pair Solutions. The firm is launching a new software application that breaks through communications barriers to allow two-way radios, cell phones, PDAs and other devices to talk to each other.

Being UWAA president will be like having another full-time job, Blodgett says, but he is ready for the challenge. “I don’t get involved in a light way,” he explains of his volunteer experience. “The UWAA is an organization where you can support the UW with other, like-minded people—and have a lot of fun.”

Even his wife enjoys going to alumni events, Blodgett adds, although she likes to point out that their daughter will be attending USC this fall. “I have a son who is a sophomore in high school,” Blodgett says. “He’s my last hope to have another Husky in the family.”