Office of the President

September 29, 2021

Saying farewell to a friend and visionary, Professor Emeritus Thad Spratlen

Ana Mari Cauce

Yesterday, we said goodbye to a friend. But we also celebrated his truly extraordinary life and legacy with a community of people who loved him. Thaddeus Spratlen, professor emeritus of marketing at the Foster School of Business, died this past May at the age of 90. Yesterday’s celebration of his life was a vibrant embodiment of the person he was and the impact he leaves on this generation and many more to come.

Thad, with his wife and life-long partner, Lois Price Spratlen, didn’t just change the University of Washington, they changed the world, and their shared devotion to expanding opportunity and equity echoes throughout the UW and the communities and families they touched. Their visionary work and leadership has helped enable families and communities of color – so widely and historically underrepresented and underserved in the business community – to take part in the American dream. They recognized the profound importance of empowering people to create wealth and jobs, as well as giving communities access to thriving commerce.

Celebrating Thad’s life with his daughter, Pamela

Thad was  a man of many “firsts.” Not only was he the first Black faculty member in the Foster School, but he was also the first Black Foster School faculty member to receive tenure and the first honored with emeritus status. His brilliance and drive were evident from the very start of his career. The barriers he faced as Black academic – which were significant – were no match for his ambition and talent, and the UW and Foster School were incredibly lucky to have been Thad’s home for the decades that he taught and mentored here.

I was privileged to have Thad as a friend and colleague, and he inspired me and so many others with his drive to create equitable opportunity. His innovative teaching and research were the blueprint and inspiration for the Consulting and Business Development Center, which has an outstanding track record of creating jobs, opportunity and revenue, in large part thanks to Thad’s innovations and vision. He has changed countless lives, and many more will be changed as his work continues to bear fruit for generations to come.

However, Thad’s generational impact is, perhaps, most evident in the amazing children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who carry on his and Lois’s legacy in their own lives, which are so full of purpose and achievement. Each member of this remarkable family has found their own way to extend Thad and Lois’ impact, and as a group, they are proof that the most powerful legacy is love.

As our community grieves the loss of a giant, we can honor his legacy by redoubling our efforts to advance the vision and mission of equity, diversity and opportunity that Thad and Lois put into action. By undertaking this work together, we will honor everything that they worked for and extend the legacy that he and Lois entrusted us with.