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Gates Volunteer Service Award

Coast-to-coast Husky

Lex Gamble, recipient of the 2019 Gates Volunteer Service Award, has been a dedicated Husky and UW leader for nearly 60 years — on campus and from across the country.

Lex Gamble

Lex Gamble

Lex, ’59, and Diane Gamble, ’59, may have moved all the way across the country, but they quickly formed a close circle of friends who were also UW alumni. And before long, that circle began to grow.

Lex and Diane had met as UW undergraduates, married a week after graduation and moved to the Northeast. After Lex earned his MBA at Harvard, the pair began their careers in New York — but they didn’t forget their UW roots.

It began with a dinner. “Someone said, ‘What do you miss most about the Pacific Northwest, other than actually being there?’” Lex recalls. “We agreed it was the salmon.” And not just any salmon — it had to be Pacific salmon, flown in from Pike Place Market, 2,400 miles away.

Thanks to dry ice and cooperative fishmongers, they were soon enjoying authentic Pacific salmon at their Chappaqua home among a small contingent of Huskies. But something was still missing. “Maybe we could get some more Huskies out here,” someone suggested. So, says Lex, they got in touch with the University to invite alumni in the region to their summer gatherings: “People came from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont. Out of the woods.”

The annual New York Salmon BBQ would become a UW tradition on the East Coast, enduring for more than 40 years at their home (and still going strong at the Greenwich home of Susan Bevan, ’76). But the Gambles’ connection to the University didn’t stop there. Their generous philanthropy, Lex’s leadership on the UW Foundation and Foster School Advisory boards, and his passion for forging strong alumni networks have created a UW legacy that’s hard to top. Although Diane passed away in 2011, Lex continues to build on the important work they began together.

In recognition of Lex’s ongoing impact, the UW Foundation has honored him with the 2019 Gates Volunteer Service Award (GVSA). Presented annually, the GVSA celebrates those who shape the University’s trajectory with their philanthropy and service — and who encourage others to do the same.

Drawing of Lex Gamble

Husky roots

Raised in Spokane, Lex was surrounded by Husky spirit: His father and many other relatives attended the UW. So when it came time to apply to schools, he says, “I only applied to the UW, of course. I bleed purple.”

Through his years in Phi Delta Theta and on the UW crew team, Lex built a network of lifelong friends. He also developed his leadership skills as president of the ASUW, where he met Diane, who was second vice president.

On the move

Though Lex attended graduate school on the East Coast, he was still a Husky at heart. “I like to tell people I got my degree from Harvard, but I got my education at the UW,” he says.

In 2005 Lex used his industry and UW connections to help launch Dawgs on Wall Street (DOWS), which brings high-caliber speakers to a UW alumni audience in New York City. Speakers have included Bill Gates Sr., ’49, ’50; former Starbucks CEO Orin Smith, ’65; Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman, ’64, ’67; and former Secretary of the Interior and REI CEO Sally Jewell, ’78.

“Lex helped build something that would last,” Foster School Dean Jim Jiambalvo says. “He inspired and fostered the next generation of Wall Street volunteer leaders.”

Returning to the UW

For more than 20 years, Lex has returned to Seattle frequently for his work on the UW Foundation Board and the Foster School Advisory Board; he chaired the latter during the University’s last fundraising campaign, helping secure support for leading-edge facilities at the business school. Longtime friend and UW volunteer Artie Buerk, ’58, calls Lex “the glue” that keeps people connected to the University from far and wide.

Lex’s visionary volunteerism was matched by his and Diane’s inspiring philanthropy. They contributed generously to the new Foster School facilities, UW Rowing, UW Medicine and much more. They also co-chaired multiple reunion gift committees for the Class of 1959, endowing a landscape architecture scholarship and a fund to ensure the enduring health of the Quad’s iconic cherry trees. Jiambalvo calls the latter the perfect metaphor for the seeds the Gambles’ philanthropy has sown — bringing beauty and joy to the UW for generations to come.

Transitions

Diane passed away in 2011 after a battle with cancer. In more than 50 years together, she and Lex had created a legacy of fellowship, leadership and philanthropy from across the country. In Diane’s honor, several DOWS hosts funded a memorial bench in her name in the Quad, under the cherry trees she loved.

In 2014, Lex married Ann Marie Vernes, who’d been Diane’s bridge partner and longtime close friend. It wasn’t long before Ann Marie adopted the purple and gold. Lex boasts, “Ann Marie is now one of the most dedicated Huskies that I know.”

Purple pride

Lex steps down from the UW Foundation Board this month, but he remains connected to Huskies near and far: He continues his work on the Foster School Advisory Board, and he’s a regular at DOWS events and New York Salmon BBQs (which have inspired similar regional events across the country). And he and Ann Marie fly to Palm Springs every March for the UW Alumni Association’s Dawg Days in the Desert.

For nearly 60 years, Lex has helped shape the UW’s story. For even longer, the UW has been an integral part of his own.

Says Jiambalvo, “Purple pride travels with him wherever he goes.”

More about the Gates Volunteer Service Award

The Gates Volunteer Service Award is presented annually by the University of Washington and the UW Foundation to recognize and honor individuals whose long-term volunteer efforts of time, service and philanthropy have encouraged others to similarly support the University of Washington.

Recipients of the Gates Volunteer Service Award exemplify the highest standards of service to the University of Washington, modeled by the singular vision and generosity of the William H. Gates family, whose volunteer service, commitment of time, and philanthropy continue to advance the work of the UW in profound and enduring ways. Read more about the  Gates family’s support of the University of Washington.

First presented in 2002, the award follows the tradition of the long-standing UW Recognition Award, initiated in 1976. It is one of the most distinguished accolades bestowed by the UW.