UW Today

This is an archived article.

July 6, 2007

John R. Hogness, former UW president, dies at 85

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Dr. John R. Hogness, former president of the University of Washington  in Seattle and former dean of the UW School of Medicine, died in the University House at Wallingford UW retirement center late Monday evening, July 2, 2007. He was 85. The cause of death was heart and kidney failure.


Dr. Hogness was UW medical school dean from 1964 to 1969, executive UW vice president and vice president of the UW Health Sciences from 1969 to 1971 and UW president from 1974 to 1979, when he became president of the national Association of Academic Health Centers.


He had served as the first president of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences from 1971 to 1974, and helped build the institute from scratch as an unbiased examiner of America’s health care problems. He became known for pulling together divergent viewpoints and for his insightful and innovative contributions to U.S. health policy. He was a widely published commentator on the U.S. health-care system, and on challenges facing medical schools, health professional schools, and teaching hospitals. He was particularly interested in advancing the roles of nurses and physician assistants in patient care, and in the economics of health care.


When he left the UW presidency, the Board of Regents established in his honor an annual symposium, featuring nationally renowned speakers on topical issues affecting health care, including the social and ethical aspects of medicine.


With the physical stature of a football player, standing at 6 feet 4 inches, Dr. Hogness was personable, easygoing, and known for his sense of humor and informal manner. He tried to understand, first-hand if possible, what situations were like from another person’s point of view. In the late 1960s, for example, when rural towns faced a physician shortage, then-Dean of Medicine Dr. Hogness went to Omak, Wash., to fill-in for two weeks for a general practitioner to experience the day-to-day challenges of a country doctor.


Dr. Hogness helped bring together the academic university and community health-professionals through his diplomacy in town-gown relations. As president of the UW, Dr. Hogness was open to student feedback, and encouraged student evaluation of courses.


“People liked John and John liked people,” wrote Dr. Clement Finch, one of the original faculty members of the UW School of Medicine, in his history of the medical school.


After his retirement, Dr. Hogness served as a consultant to such diverse organizations as the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the office of the Surgeon General of the Army.


Dr. Hogness was born June 27, 1922, in Oakland, Calif. He attended Haverford College, and received a B.S. degree in chemistry in 1943 and an M.D. degree in 1946 from the University of Chicago. He did his residency in internal medicine (general adult medicine) at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. He moved to Seattle because his first wife, Katharine, was from the Northwest, and because the UW School of Medicine had recently opened.


At King County Hospital (now Harborview Medical Center), Dr. Hogness became chief medical resident in 1950. He then completed a fellowship in endocrinology with his mentor, the late Dr. Robert Williams, first chair of the UW Department of Medicine.


Dr. Hogness was in private practice in Seattle for seven years before joining the UW faculty, and soon advanced to be the medical director of what was then University Hospital (now UW Medical Center.)


Dr. Hogness enjoyed fishing, hunting, sailing and other outdoor recreation. Before moving to a UW retirement house in Seattle, he and his second wife, Margaret Boley, lived in a small town in the North Cascades, where he did cross-country skiing and hiking. Dr. Hogness also was an actor in community theater in the Methow Valley. He gave a well-received performance as Cowardly Lion in the local production of the Wizard of Oz musical.


Dr. Hogness and his first wife, Katharine, had five children. Katharine died in 2004. He is survived by his three daughters Karen Hogness of Charlemont, Mass.; Suze Rutherford; and Jody Hazen of Snoqualmie, Wash., two sons, Rusten of Santa Cruz, Calif., and David, a physician in the United Arab Emirates, his second wife Margaret, and his four stepchildren, Tyler, Peg, Terry, and Tom.


A memorial service is planned for the afternoon of Sunday, July 22, in the John R. Hogness Auditorium at the University of Washington Health Sciences Center in Seattle, time to be determined. The family suggests that contributions in Dr. Hogness’ memory may be made to the contributor’s favorite charity.