UW Today

This is an archived article.

May 13, 2010

UW Tacoma Chancellor Spakes announces leadership transition

UW Tacoma Chancellor Patricia Spakes has announced that she will step down as chancellor in July 2011. She has served as chancellor since April 2005.


In a letter addressed to the campus community, Chancellor Spakes wrote: “During the past five years we have accomplished much and seen significant change to our campus. We made a rapid transition from a two-year commuter campus to a four-year comprehensive institution; we completed a capital campaign that exceeded expectations more than fivefold; and we executed a strategic planning process and a new master plan that begin to define who we are becoming. At the same time, we double the number of students and added [more than $80 million] in capital funding to our campus. In the scope of these major changes, we suffered historic budget cuts, accompanied by the human toll of layoffs that challenged our sense of community. We have accomplished all of this in an environment of consistently declining state resources.”


Spakes’ letter said she wants to consider her family’s needs and her retirement plans with her husband, UW Tacoma Professor Jerry Finn, adding that she will continue in that role for one year “to help the campus achieve a smooth transition to new leadership.” As is customary in higher education, Chancellor Spakes has the option to serve as a tenured faculty member.


Spakes joined UW Tacoma in 2005, taking the reins from Steven Olswang, interim chancellor from 2003-2005. UW Tacoma’s first chancellor was Vicky L. Carwein, who served from 1995 to 2003.


During her administration, Spakes oversaw the transition of UW Tacoma from a two-year to a four-year university. The university’s first freshman class began their studies in 2006 and will graduate this June.


In 2008 Spakes completed a highly successful fundraising campaign that garnered $41.56 million in gifts and pledges, plus an additional $2.6 million from the UW Founders Matching Initiative.


The student body headcount grew from 2,189 in autumn 2005 to 3,111 in autumn 2009. Student applications nearly doubled, from 2,128 in autumn 2005 to 4,153 in fall 2009.


Other accomplishments during Spakes’ tenure include:



  • obtaining more than $80 million in capital funding
  • construction and opening of William W. Philip Hall
  • renovation on the Joy Building under way
  • acquired the Artists Lofts building
  • upcoming construction of a new classroom and office building on Jefferson Street
  • updating comprehensive master plan to accommodate four-year mission
  • adding new academic programs including information technology, healthcare leadership and criminal justice


Spakes has more than 30 years’ experience as a faculty member and administrator in higher education. Prior to obtaining a doctorate in social welfare from the University of Wisconsin,

Madison, she was a practicing family therapist. Her doctoral work focused on family theory, policy and research. Spakes also holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and English from Winthrop University in South Carolina and a master’s in social work from the University of South Carolina.


From 1980 to 1990 Spakes held tenured faculty positions as associate professor of social work at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where she also served as chair of Women’s Studies. She was professor and chair of Women’s Studies at Arizona State University West from 1990-1997.


She held senior-level administrative positions as vice provost for academic affairs at Arizona State University West, vice president for academic affairs at Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts, and provost and vice president for academic affairs at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.


Spakes has written extensively on family policy and family impact analysis, both from a national policy and from an international comparative perspective.


During her career, Spakes has been involved in many community and civic activities, including work with the Mental Health Association, Family Services of America and several state and local commissions on the status of women.


Current activities include serving on the Executive Council for a Greater Tacoma, the Urban Waters Endowed Chair Advisory Committee, Executive Board of Pierce County Careers Connections and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber Board of Directors.


Spakes is a frequent conference presenter and community speaker on topics ranging from higher education to leadership.