In Memoriam: Kay Rich

Former Western Washington University Director of University Residences Kay Rich passed away on April 6.

Rich served as a leader and mentor for students, faculty, staff and community members in her dedication to community service and community building. From her tenure as director of University Residences to her volunteer work in the Bellingham community, Rich served as a role model, especially for Western students, exemplifying what it means to be a dedicated professional, a civically engaged citizen, and a genuinely caring person. Her passion for leadership significantly influenced those around her to be the best they can be.

Kay Rich

After Kay’s retirement from Western, she, along with many generous donors, created a scholarship specifically for Resident Advisors/Community Advisors to continue to support and inspire students as they make a difference in their communities.

Rich began her career at Western following receipt of her Master’s degree in Education in Student Personnel Administration. She worked in Admissions; helped establish and was assistant director of the Academic Advising Center; worked as assistant to the VP for Student Affairs prior to becoming associate director of University Residences for Residence Life and eventually director of University Residences. Kay retired from Western in 2005 after more than 25 years of service, but continued her involvement through supporting the University in a variety of ways.

While at Western, Kay not only served on many committees and task forces but she was also involved in a variety of leadership roles in professional organizations including Northwest College Personnel Association as President, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators on the Journal Board and on their executive committee, Northwest Association of College and University Housing Officers as President, and the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International as a District Representative.

Retired director of University Residences Willy Hart spoke glowingly of Kay’s impact on the institution and those around her.

“Kay was an extraordinary leader dedicated to student success. Her long career saw many substantial accomplishments at Western and throughout the student housing profession. Kay’s warm and joyful style brought out the best in everyone fortunate enough to be in her orbit,” said Hart.

Michael Sledge, the executive director of Western’s Office of Student Life, echoed Hart’s thoughts.

“Kay was the epitome of a caring professional. She was compassionate, warm and went out of her way to mentor young professionals. She is a role model for many, including me, and she left a lasting impression on all those who were fortunate enough to work with her,” Sledge said.

[Kay] is a role model for many, including me, and she left a lasting impression on all those who were fortunate enough to work with her.

Michael Sledge

Kay was also involved in the Bellingham Community and beyond through volunteer positions on the Sunrise Rotary Club of Bellingham, Whatcom Crisis Clinic Board of Directors, Visiting Nurse Home Health Care Board of Directors, St. Luke’s Foundation Board, and the Supervisory Committee of the Whatcom Educational Credit Union Board of Directors. She also used her love of walking and running as a means of raising funds for favorite charities such as the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, & the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society, through which she has raised close to $100,000 over the years.

Rich leaves behind a rich and enduring legacy at Western, something that her daughter, Michele Anderson, who herself has also found a home professionally as the Events and Communications Manager for the President’s office, said she would be infinitely proud of.

"My mom was so proud of her time at Western - it's where she went to graduate school and built a career for herself. I like to think that she's left her fingerprints on WWU as well - from helping establish the Academic Advising Center, to drafting Western's first sexual harassment policy, to overseeing the complete renovation of Edens Hall, to all the friendships and the young people she mentored along the way,” Anderson said. “It's comforting to see little bits of her as I walk around campus."

A Celebration of Life event in honor of Kay Rich will be held Saturday, June 17 at 2 p.m. at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

For more about Kay Rich’s life, see her obituary, here.