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Treasuring the legacy of Bill Ruckelshaus

Last week, we lost a friend and leader whose principled voice will echo forever at the University of Washington and across the nation. William Ruckelshaus believed deeply in the foundations that underpin our democracy: open debate, the rule of law and, above all, service to the common good. Throughout his long life, he did much to strengthen and secure those foundations for generations to come.

Bill’s legacy lives on in so much of our nation, but especially here in Washington. It lives in his work at the first director of the Environmental Protection Agency, in his historic commitment to the rule of law despite the personal cost, and through the Ruckelshaus Center, which unites our University and Washington State University in advancing informed, evidence-based policy for the public good.

The Ruckelshaus Center embodies Bill’s faith in collaboration, informed debate and reasonable compromise. His commitment to practical, workable solutions drew both praise and criticism over the decades, but in his willingness to consider all sides and weigh competing interests, he was able to create policies that made a difference. His environmental legacy includes reduced water and air pollution as well as the banning of the pesticide DDT, all of which helped usher in an era of resurgent wildlife, including so many of the species that make our beautiful Pacific Northwest extraordinary.

Bill understood the important role that universities must play in advancing the common good. In the UW and WSU, he saw a means for researching, debating and collaborating in the name of sound policy-making. As a member of the advisory board of the UW College of the Environment and through the work of the Ruckelshaus Center, which is hosted through the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, Bill embodied the mission of public service that drives us. We are honored to steward and nurture his monumental legacy. Throughout his life, Bill tirelessly tended the flame of American democracy – with his passing, we pick up his torch and continue the journey.