WWU Advancement announces the retirements of Sonja Sather and Emily Weiner
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University Advancement at WWU has announced pair of important and well-deserved upcoming retirements in Sonja Sather and Emily Weiner.
Sonja Sather has been a dedicated Western administrator, a foundational scholarship staff member, and a critical member of the development team. She began her career at Western in 1978 as an administrative assistant to President Paul Olscamp and served in his administration for five years. When he left Western, he offered for Sonja to join him in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but she so loved Western and the proximity of family for her daughter Erica, she stayed. In 1987, she moved “across the hall” from the President’s office to the Foundation, working in the scholarship office where she created three legacy operations—students writing thank-you letters to scholarship donors; students and donors having the opportunity to meet; and the stewardship program for endowed scholarships—remain key pieces of the Advancement program to this day.
“I helped donors set up annual scholarships and worked with them to endow those scholarships,” Sather said.
In the early 1990s, Advancement began the major gifts program and expanded. Sonja took the opportunity to become a major gift officer and has worked with several departments and programs on campus. Most recently, she has worked with the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies and the College of Fine and Performing Arts.
“I love helping students. I’ve met such incredible people who want to help people they’ve never met before. I’m so grateful I started in Central Administration — those years helped me in the subsequent work I did for Advancement," she said.
In her retirement, Sonja plans to travel and spend time with her partner James and her daughter and grandchildren.
Emily Weiner served Western for eight years after many years in the nonprofit sector and as a journalist in Bellingham. Her work in corporate and foundation relations has brought in critical grant funding for programs, departments, and projects all across campus and out to the Peninsulas.
Emily is also known for always centering diversity, equity and inclusion in her work, finding grant money and funding for Woodring programs that support bilingual teacher candidates and migrant youth, and the two major sculpture exhibitions at Western: the Noguchi exhibition “Looking Up, and Nancy Holt’s “Between Heaven and Earth.” Weiner also helped on Western's successful First Federal Community Foundation grant for the WWU Small Business Development Center to support BIPOC entrepreneurs, brought her knowledge and perspective to organizations across campus with the Antisemitism Task Force, and served on University Advancement’s ADEI committee.
Her influence on making Western and its work more inclusive is felt everywhere from job interviews to university policy. She said the tasks she felt she left unfinished were finding funding for students who can’t afford outdoor opportunities at Western and for the Law, Diversity and Justice program at Fairhaven.
In her retirement, Emily plans to spend more time with her partner Peggy and her children and grandchildren. She will also celebrate her Bat Mitzvah in the spring and is planning a trip to Israel and Jordan.
“I will also continue to work in community justice,” she said.
Both these exceptional women will be sorely missed by their colleagues.