Trustees rename building to honor Jerry Flora

In honor of Western Washington University President Emeritus Charles J. (“Jerry”) Flora, who passed away late in 2013 at age 85, the WWU Board of Trustees has renamed a building at Western's Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes.

The former Marine Science Education Building will now be known as the Charles J. (Jerry) Flora Marine Education Building. The change was made with a unanimous vote at the trustees' Dec. 12 meeting on campus.

Flora served as Western’s eighth president, from 1967 to 1975. During his tenure, Western’s enrollment grew from 6,240 to 10,000, and four colleges – Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Huxley College of the Environment, the College of Business and Economics and the College of Fine and Performing Arts – were established.

“When you consider his career as an exceptionally engaged scholar and educator, both at Western and in the community – not to mention his tremendous leadership for Western during a crucial time – naming the Marine Science Education Building after Jerry Flora makes perfect sense,” said WWU President Bruce Shepard. “His instructive beach walks and children’s television series inspired many to share his love of our beautiful marine environment, and embrace the importance of protecting it. Preserving Jerry’s legacy at Shannon Point will inspire generations of students and educators, and remind us how powerful direct engagement with the environment can be.”

Flora began at Western in 1957 as an assistant professor of biology. He took a leave of absence from Western in 1965 to help develop a biology curriculum at Sri Venkateswara University in southwest India. He served as Western academic dean from 1965 to 1967 and as director of the Aquatic Studies Program, which included the Institute for Freshwater Studies and the Sundquist Marine Laboratory at Shannon Point, from 1976 to 1983. He returned to teaching in 1983 and retired from Western as a professor of biology in 1991.

Trustee Ralph Munro remembered Flora as an incredible teacher and steward of the Salish Sea. "One of the finest professors that I have ever known," Munro said in a story published just after Flora's death. "Famous for his beach walks and early calls to protect Puget Sound. We have all lost a fine man and friend."

Flora was well-known in the Bellingham community for his children’s television series, “Tide Pool Critters,” which aired locally on KVOS. On behalf of the show, Flora won the Golden Mike Trophy, given to the nation’s best local television program in the interest of youth, in 1963. Flora also led regular beach walks in Whatcom County, on which he’d lead community members in hands-on explorations of area beaches and mudflats.

Flora earned his bachelor’s degree in bacteriology from Purdue University in 1950. He worked as a high school science teacher in 1953 and 1954 and then earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in biological education from the University of Florida in 1955 and 1957, respectively.