Bill Ruckelshaus believes that the best approach to tackling tough policy issues is more democracy, in other words informing and involving more people in addressing the issues that affect their lives.
In 2003, Ruckelshaus worked with the presidents of Washington State University and the University of Washington not only to establish a joint program to apply their resources to addressing contentious public policy issues, but to provide funding for its launch.
Originally named the WSU-UW Policy Consensus Center, its mission is to act as a neutral resource for collaborative problem solving by bringing the capabilities of the two research universities to bear on policy issues.
At a recent reception, WSU President V. Lane Rawlins and UW President Mark Emmert announced the renaming of the center as the William D. Ruckelshaus Center.
Ruckelshaus is highly respected for his public, corporate and community leadership. He is best known as the first director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a post to which he returned during the Reagan administration. He has served as a senior vice president of the Weyerhaeuser Corporation and chairman/CEO of Browning Ferris Industries, and currently is a partner and principal in Madrona Venture Partners.
“There’s no one like Bill Ruckelshaus,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said at the reception. “Governors, as well as several U.S. presidents, have called upon him to work on problems that have eluded resolution by the best and brightest.”
The governor complimented the two university presidents for their foresight in forming the center to apply the resources of both universities to addressing vexing policy issues.
“Everyone will know what the center stands for when they see the name William D. Ruckelshaus on the door: Integrity, clear and practical thinking, good humor, respect for all, and civil solutions that create a better future for everyone,” the governor said.
In accepting the honor, Ruckelshaus, who chairs the center’s advisory board, said that he views the center’s mission as important to ensuring that our democracy works.
“The missing element is strong public understanding of issues. We need an informed public who can demand decisions from our leaders and that’s what you are up to,” he said. “The center doesn’t solve problems. Its success is in providing help for the people involved to solve them, and those are the most durable solutions.”
Ruckelshaus praised the role of Extension, the WSU home for the center.
“Extension is an important place for the center to be, and a natural place,” he said. “Extension has people all over the state who see the problems every day. If this effort results in a better place for us to live, we’ll have really accomplished something.”
More information about the Ruckelshaus Center and its work can be found at www.ruckelshauscenter.wsu.edu.