Cowles appointed chair of Ruckelshaus Center board

Closeup of Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Cowles.
Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Cowles

Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Cowles has been named chair of the Advisory Board to the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, a public policy-minded collaboration of Washington State University and the University of Washington. 

Cowles, of Spokane, Washington, is chairman and CEO of Cowles Co., overseeing the diversified, family-owned firm’s broadcasting and real estate divisions. She is a longstanding member of the Ruckelshaus Center’s Advisory Board and its executive committee. 

She becomes the third chair of the Ruckelshaus Center’s board since the center was established in 2004, succeeding Robert J. Drewel, who served in that role since 2019. 

The Ruckelshaus Center is a joint effort of WSU and UW to foster collaborative public policy in the Pacific Northwest. It’s named in honor of William “Bill” Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As a politician, Ruckelshaus was renowned for his ability to bring together disparate groups to craft effective policy. He died in 2019. 

Today the Ruckelshaus Center leverages the universities’ academic expertise to address important public policy issues, such as housing instability, criminal sentencing guidelines, COVID-19 policy and response, and preserving the state’s coastline. 

Cowles has served on a number of regional, state, and national boards, including previously chairing the Board of Regents at WSU. 

Elizabeth Chilton, WSU Provost and executive vice president, and a fellow member of the Ruckelshaus Center Advisory Board, said she values Cowles’ experience in convening diverse stakeholders toward achieving a common goal.    

“Through Betsy’s work in business, nonprofit, and governmental arenas, she has demonstrated strong leadership, effectiveness, and collaboration,” Chilton said. “She also understands the challenges that face our region and seeks to address these challenges through her strong community involvement. I look forward to working with her and the rest of the Advisory Board to find new ways to support Washington communities.” 

Tricia Serio, Provost and Executive Vice President at the University of Washington said, “Betsy has had an influential role in public policy in the state and the region for decades. Together with new Ruckelshaus Center Director Julia Carboni, we expect the organization’s work to take on even greater importance in the years to come.”

Cowles became Advisory Board chair on Aug. 28, 2023.

For more information on the work of the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, visit

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