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Western Washington University president announces her retirement


Western Washington University President Karen W. Morse, the longest-serving university president in the state, announced Friday she would retire Sept. 1, 2008.

Morse, 67, became Western’s 12th president in 1993.

She came to Bellingham after serving as provost at Utah State University, where she was also a chemistry professor, head of the chemistry and biochemistry department and dean of the College of Science.

Morse said she hopes to use her retirement to travel, write, consult and spend more time with her family, including two young grandchildren who live in Washington, D.C.

“The president’s job is a 24-7 job and you’re always the president. I would like to have some time that’s for me and my husband and my family,” she said, adding that she plans to stay in Bellingham.

Kevin Raymond, chair of Western’s Board of Trustees, said Morse and the board had been discussing the the timing of her retirement for several years.

“We knew this day was coming,” Raymond said. “It’s as good a time as any. The university is in such good shape.”

Morse said she has two top goals for her last year at the university: help the university decide the direction of its next fundraising push and complete the preliminary plans for Western’s new waterfront campus.

Morse has served on a number of higher education associations and boards, including twice as the chairwoman of the Council of Presidents, consisting of the leaders of the state’s six public universities.

In 1997, Morse received the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Award, one of the American Chemical Society’s highest honors. She has published extensively in the field of chemistry and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In her years at Western, university enrollment grew from 9,300 to 12,100 full-time equivalent students. The faculty increased from 456 to 627. She has overseen the addition of a number of new campus buildings and worked on plans to expand the campus to the Bellingham waterfront.

The university said Morse would spend her last year providing for a smooth transition, finishing the university’s accreditation process, raising money, lobbying the Legislature and completing the first union contract with faculty.

She earned her doctorate and master’s degrees from Michigan and her bachelor’s degree from Ohio’s Denison University. She is married to retired Western chemistry professor Joseph Morse and has two adult sons.

–Associated Press

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