UW News

May 11, 2006

Former government official who said ‘no’ to Nixon will speak at commencement

News and Information

William D. Ruckelshaus, who has had a career in public service that has spanned more than four decades, will be the speaker at the UW’s Commencement exercises June 10 at Husky Stadium.

His service in the federal government began in 1969, when President Richard M. Nixon appointed him assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division for the U.S. Department of Justice. When the Environmental Protection Agency was formed in 1970, he was appointed by Nixon to be its first administrator.

In 1973, Nixon appointed him acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and that same year also appointed him deputy attorney general. In an event known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” Ruckelshaus and Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned their positions rather than obey an order from Nixon to fire the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, who was investigating official misconduct by the President and his aides.

“Bill Ruckelshaus defined public service for a generation,” said UW President Mark A. Emmert. “His example of civic mindedness, environmental stewardship, and principled leadership is something with which students today should — and I believe will — resonate. I am delighted he has agreed to help us celebrate our students’ accomplishments at our commencement ceremony.”

Ruckelshaus returned to the private sector and the practice of law, serving as senior partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Ruckelshaus Beveridge & Fairbanks. He was with Weyerhaeuser Co. as senior vice president for law and corporate affairs from 1976 to 1983. In 1983, Ruckelshaus was appointed by President Reagan as the fifth EPA administrator, a position he held until 1985, when he joined the Seattle law firm of Perkins Coie. He was CEO of Browning-Ferris Industries from 1988 to 1995 and chairman of its board in 1988-1989.

Ruckelshaus is currently a strategic director in the Madrona Venture Group and a principal in Madrona Investment Group, a Seattle-based investment company.

He also serves on the board of Isilon Systems and TVW. He currently serves as chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for the state of Washington and was appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire as co-chairman of the Puget Sound Partnership, a collaborative effort to help restore the health of Puget Sound. The presidents of UW and WSU in 2004 appointed him to be the chair of the new WSU-UW Policy Consensus Center, a joint effort aimed at contributing university talents to the resolution of difficult public policy issues.

He has served as a director of several corporations, including Cummins Engine Co., Pharmacia Corp., Solutia, Inc., Coinstar, Inc., Vykor, Inc., Nordstrom and Weyerhaeuser Co. From 1983 to 1986 he served on the World Commission on Environment and Development created by the United Nations. From 1997 to 1998 he was the U.S. envoy in implementing the Pacific Salmon Treaty. From 2000 to 2004 he served on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, which was charged with making recommendations to the President and Congress for a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy.

The June 10 ceremonies at Husky Stadium start at 2 p.m. The academic procession begins at 1:30. About 4,500 students are expected to participate, with an estimated 35,000 guests attending.