The University of Washington’s Board of Regents has a long history of being an exclusive club of wealthy Seattleites. Until recent years, it has focused almost single-mindedly on the care and feeding of the UW’s Seattle campus.
That’s made a difference – as in the late 1990s, when the UW was socking away money for a new $80 million law school and other flagship buildings while showing considerably less interest in expanding the campus of the University of Washington Tacoma.
Four years ago, something strange happened: A civic-minded Tacoman, Herb Simon, was appointed to the Board of Regents. Simon, an investor and real estate developer, was not only a prominent Tacoma business leader but one of the foremost champions of the UWT.
He was one of the prime movers behind the campus’ creation and has labored mightily on its behalf ever since. His lobbying efforts were crucial in winning appropriations from the 2001 Legislature for the creation of the UW Institute of Technology in Tacoma. State funding was tight that year, but lawmakers were impressed by nearly $4 million that Simon and banker Bill Philip raised locally to add to the state’s investment in the institute.
Last week, Simon acquired an even more influential position: He became chairman of the Board of Regents.
As a regent, Simon has not had a narrow “what’s-in-it-for-my-hometown” focus. He’s been concerned with the health of the entire UW – the main campus in Seattle and the smaller campuses in Tacoma and Bothell.
That broad concern will make him all the more effective in ensuring that the UWT’s interests are not given short shrift when strategic decisions are made about the future of the tri-campus system. Simon’s new honor promises to strengthen the entire University of Washington – the UWT included.