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Originally published January 26, 2014 at 8:46 PM | Page modified January 30, 2014 at 10:22 PM

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UW Tacoma Chancellor Debra Friedman, a ‘true daughter’ of the school, dies at 58

Debra Friedman, whose passing was announced Jan. 26, had returned to Washington in 2011 to improve the UW Tacoma campus and turn it into a model of urban education


Seattle Times staff reporter

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University of Washington, Tacoma Chancellor Debra Friedman — described by UW President Mike Young as a “true daughter” of the school — died Sunday, Jan. 26, of lung cancer. She was 58.

Young and other UW officials announced her passing on the school’s Web page, where they praised the leadership and community-building skills she demonstrated since returning to Washington in 2011 to run the UW satellite campus in Tacoma.

“It is impossible to ignore the tragedy when someone is lost to us who has so much to give,” Young said in a prepared statement.

Chancellor Friedman, a Seattle native, received her graduate degrees from the UW — a master’s in sociology in 1978 and her Ph.D. in sociology in 1983, and received an Excellence in Teaching award.

“Chancellor Friedman was a true daughter of the University of Washington,” Young said.

Chancellor Friedman was praised as a passionate educator who brought “into sharp focus an identity for UW Tacoma as an urban-serving campus.”

‘That identity and investment is rooted in her unyielding passion: the transformational impact of education,” the statement said. “In those two-and-a-half years, she became a key leader in the South Sound region.”

Three weeks ago, on Jan. 8, Chancellor Friedman announced in a “Note from the Chancellor” posted on the school website that she would curtail her duties because she had been diagnosed with cancer. The treatments, she wrote, were “taking a toll on my energy and will limit many of my activities in the coming weeks.”

On Friday, she announced she would be taking full medical leave.

Young said she died Sunday morning “peacefully with her family gathered around her.”

“Her family tells us that some of Debra’s last words were of the University of Washington.”

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the city is “deeply saddened by the passing of Debra Friedman.”

“She was committed to opening doors of opportunity for all students,” the mayor said. “UW Tacoma’s growth as an urban serving campus flourished under her strong leadership.”

Memory books for students to record their thoughts will be available through Jan. 31 on campus. Grief counseling for the faculty and staff will be available Tuesday at Philip Hall from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Vice chancellors Harlan Patterson and J.W. Harrington said Chancellor Friedman “has given us at UW Tacoma a fantastic gift of vision, identity and momentum” and said a formal memorial service will be scheduled in the next few weeks.

Before returning to Washington in 2011, Chancellor Friedman spent six years at Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus.

She served as dean of the College of Public Programs at ASU and was later named vice president in charge of the school’s downtown Phoenix campus, an annex of the main campus in Tempe, Ariz.

She worked at the UW from 1994 to 2005 in various capacities, including as assistant dean and associate dean of undergraduate education, associate provost for academic planning and director of special projects in development and alumni relations.

Her daughter, Eliana, graduated from the UW in 2006 as a Rhodes Scholar.

Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706



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