UW News

December 14, 2020

Gift celebrates success of UW student and faculty work to grow businesses in underserved communities

Foster School of Business


Joanne and Bruce HarrellUniversity of Washington

The University of Washington today announced a $100,000 gift from UW Regent Joanne Harrell and her husband, former longtime Seattle elected leader Bruce Harrell, benefitting the Consulting and Business Development Center (CBDC) at the Foster School of Business.

The Joanne and Bruce Harrell Family Endowment for CBDC Student Engagement will support the work being done by the center staff, faculty and student consultants to provide emerging businesses from diverse communities with access to the skills, tools and knowledge that facilitates economic success, job creation and wealth.

“The UW’s commitment to equity and inclusion has to begin with a willingness to invest in programs that drive educational opportunities to develop future leaders and support a healthy economic ecosystem for everyone,” Joanne and Bruce Harrell said in a joint statement. “We are excited to make an investment in the Consulting and Business Development Center because they develop students who understand the complexities of growing and sustaining businesses and in the process, forge and expand relationships with organizations and communities that have been disadvantaged because of historical and institutional practices.  We are hoping others will join us by donating $100, $1,000 or any amount, to invest in a UW program that drives results that strengthen our community.”

Since the center’s inception in 1995, its student consultants and faculty-led business education courses have generated more than $250 million in new revenue and helped to retain more than 200,000 jobs for businesses owned by underrepresented minority individuals and those from underserved communities.

The students benefit as well. By tackling unstructured, real-world challenges, they learn to think strategically, develop leadership skills and integrate knowledge across business disciplines. A recent survey of graduates showed 90% of participants in the center’s program say their experience helped them land their first job after graduation, and 95% report career acceleration.

“At the Foster School, we strive to be better together, better tomorrow. Being better tomorrow requires resources, and it requires community coming together to accelerate and amplify the things that we do,” said Frank Hodge, Orin and Janet Smith Dean of the Foster School of Business. “This generous gift from Bruce and Joanne Harrell will allow us to do just that for our efforts to build equity through business education.”

Joanne Harrell earned her bachelor’s in communication in 1976 and her MBA in 1979 from the UW.  She is the senior director for U.S. Citizenship and Market Development at Microsoft, where she has worked since 2001. Honored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell as a 2015 “Woman of Valor” in honor of her leadership and community impact, in November 2016 Joanne was selected as a “Woman of Influence” by the Puget Sound Business Journal and, in November 2017 was named a Woman of Impact by the International Women’s Forum. A Regent for the University of Washington since 2009, Joanne Harrell served as board chair in 2012, and currently serves as vice chair of the Board of Regents Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, and the Board’s Legislative Committee.

Bruce Harrell earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the UW in 1980 and a juris doctor degree in 1984. In 1994, Harrell earned a master’s degree in organizational design and improvement from City University of Seattle. During his undergraduate years, he was a linebacker for the UW football team, earning recognition as an Academic All-American First Team. After building a successful career in business and law, he was elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007, where he served from 2008 to 2019. He was elected council president in 2016 and again in 2018. He also served as Seattle mayor in 2017. In 2007, Harrell received the University of Washington Distinguished Alumni Award.

The couple was recognized in 2017 with the University of Washington Charles E. Odegaard Award.

“This gift extends the leadership that Joanne and Bruce have had in this region throughout their lives. Whether it be in business, civic life, education or government, the Harrells have changed life for the better,” said Michael Verchot, founding director of the Consulting and Business Development Center. “This gift will ensure that their lifetime of impact in creating better futures for all Washingtonians will continue in the lives of Foster School students and small businesses led by people of color not only today but for generations to come.”

For more information about the work of the Consulting and Business Development Center, visit https://foster.uw.edu/centers/consulting-and-business-development-center/.