Students remember Chancellor Debra Friedman

By Eva Revear

Last Sunday the UW and Tacoma communities suffered a huge loss in the death of Chancellor Debra Friedman.  Though I rarely interacted with her personally, every time I heard her speak at various events, the focus was on how UWT could be a part of and further serve our community.  She built the university as a part of Tacoma, not as a school plopped arbitrarily in the middle of a completely separate city.  Friedman embraced the nontraditional nature of the campus and student body, and set the university on a path we hope to carry long into the future.  Though Friedman drove herself to serve the entire urban community, she focused on her individual students as well. Three students whose lives she touched expressed these feelings:

Catherine Wilmot, Education

Rest in Peace Chancellor Debra Friedman. I still remember sitting with you at the symphony a year ago, listening to how you talked so lovingly about Tacoma — how you believed in its growing community, how you believed in supporting every aspect of what made Tacoma what it was, and how you personally and professionally wanted to contribute to its growth in every way you could. I remember you asking me what I wanted to do in life and how baffled I was at the question as I was still “figuring things out.” Yet you smiled and just said to take it in strides and not too worry. I remember looking at you conversing with your friends and telling myself that this interaction had set a new standard in my life; that I wasn’t dreaming big enough. Thank you for all that you’ve done for this community and this University. You are dearly loved and appreciated and as only one alumni in this growing family, I hope to one day give back to the community that you taught me to love as much as you did.

Peter Pentescu, ASUWT President

Debra Friedman was one of the most intelligent, dedicated people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Her presence on our campus was a constant motivation: she was a leader with a strong vision of a university that could truly serve the surrounding community, and she challenged everyone to reach her level. She is not with us any more, but her spirit remains. As long as there are students at UW Tacoma working to build a better future, her memory will be there with them. As long as we are dedicated to building an institution that is truly part of the urban community, she will be there, too.

We might hope for her to “rest in peace,” but I don’t think that speaks to the way she chose to spend her life. Instead, I hope that we can all carry her spirit of untiring dedication with us, as we work to educate and serve our own communities. Even though her life is over, her life’s work is far from done. It is up to all of us who knew her and looked up to her to keep it going throughout our own lives.

Malia Ramos, Communications class of 2013

In life, we are lucky enough to meet people who are so compassionate and selfless that is it hard to not follow suit. Chancellor Debra Friedman will always be remembered as such.

It is mentors like her that have paved the way for non-traditional students, such as myself,  to further their aspirations. I was fortunate enough to have had Chancellor Friedman’s encouragement throughout my time at UWT; and for that I am truly thankful.

I cannot express the appreciation I have for her work for our community. I can only hope to be able to pay it forward in a significant way someday. My condolences and prayers for her loved ones.

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