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Longest-serving UW president dies

Gerberding served from 1979 to 1995, ‘left indelible imprint on the university’

Associated Press

SEATTLE – The longest-serving president of the University of Washington, William P. Gerberding, died Saturday at age 85.

Gerberding was president of the university from 1979 until he retired in 1995. The 27th UW president is credited with pushing the university into national prominence.

During Gerberding’s time at the university, about 125,000 students graduated, four Nobel Prizes were awarded to faculty; several new buildings were constructed; and he led a record-breaking, $284 million fundraising effort.

“Bill left an indelible imprint on the university,” UW President Michael K. Young said. “He was a great leader, and I am glad I got the chance to know him. He will long be remembered.”

University spokesman Victor Balta said Gerberding died Saturday.

Gerberding arrived at the University of Washington amid a national mood he described in his inaugural address in 1980 as “a period of confusion, uncertainty, a certain amount of cynicism and a good deal of pessimism and gloom.” He went on to express confidence in the university’s future based on the idea that “no great university has ever perished.”

But after years of state budget cuts to higher education, he was beginning to lose his optimism.

“You can’t ruin a splendid university in five or six years,” Gerberding said in 1986. “I don’t know how many years it would take, but we’re on our way.”

He turned to private donors to shore up the university and in 1989 launched UW’s first big fundraising campaign, and surpassed the goal of raising $250 million.

Before Washington, Gerberding worked as a professor at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, and then at UCLA before becoming vice president of academic affairs at Occidental College in 1972. In 1975, he became vice chancellor at UCLA, and in 1978 moved on to become chancellor at the University of Illinois.

Gerberding was born in Fargo, North Dakota, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Macalester College and a Master of Arts degree and doctorate from the University of Chicago.

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