TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound will award honorary degrees to two legendary legislators and public servants: the Hon. Norm Dicks, the recently retired member of the U.S. House of Representatives who championed Washington state for 18 terms, and Senator Debbie Regala ’68, who has served with distinction in both of Washington’s state legislative chambers across an 18-year period.
Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas will present both Dicks and Regala with honorary Doctor of Laws degrees at the Class of 2013 Commencement Ceremony in Baker Stadium on Sunday, May 19. The ceremony will run from 2 to 4:30 p.m.
“Congressman Dicks and Senator Regala exemplify the principles of informed and engaged citizenship so central to our educational mission at Puget Sound,” said Thomas. “Whether you are talking about jobs, social justice, the environment, or the welfare and protection of our nation, Norm and Debbie have been with us and the people of our region with powerful voices of conscience, always ready to learn, to serve, and to lead. It is with great pleasure that we extend this well-deserved recognition from Puget Sound.”
The Hon. Norm Dicks was widely acclaimed across the nation for his distinguished service in office when he announced to the U.S. House of Representatives last spring that he would be retiring after 18 terms. As the messages thanking him for his years of dedication poured in, Dicks told The Washington Post he planned to “change gears and enjoy life at a different pace.”
Initially elected to Washington’s 6th Congressional District in 1976, Dicks was voted back in office again and again by his constituents for a remarkable 18 terms, totaling 36 years.
At election time Dicks’ campaign yard signs carried a simple message: “He Works for Jobs.” The energetic congressman’s achievements went far beyond job numbers, however; throughout his career, he was an influential force on issues involving national security, the protection of national resources and public spaces, the advance of educational institutes and businesses, and continuing urban improvement.
A native of Bremerton, Wash., and recipient of B.A. and Juris Doctor degrees from University of Washington (where he was also a standout football player), Dicks began his career as a legislative and administrative assistant to long-serving U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson. Once elected to Congress, he served in several defense-related roles, including as the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee from 1995 to 1998. He was awarded the prestigious CIA Director’s Medal for his work there.
A fierce advocate for the environment, Dicks served on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies throughout his tenure in Congress. He twice helped rescue the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and he led a House floor fight that blocked efforts to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act. He worked with the Clinton administration to bring federal assistance to threatened salmon runs and to clean up estuaries, and wrote a landmark bill that doubled the nation’s commitment to preserving threatened parklands and wildlife.
At home Dicks was a champion for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup and the leader of efforts to resolve land claims by the Puyallup Tribe. He brought federal funding to spur the revitalization of downtown Tacoma, and to restore Union Station. In Bremerton he worked with the Navy to build new housing, and he attracted federal grants to redevelop the waterfront. Dicks was also instrumental in securing federal funding to develop University of Puget Sound’s Slater Museum of Natural History and science center as an educational resource for both the campus community and people in the region.
Those who worked with Dicks—like those who opposed him—respected his patience, diligent research, and resourcefulness. He saw complicated initiatives through, sometimes bringing together opponents and insisting they work out their differences. Bill Arthur, a deputy national field director for the Sierra Club in Seattle, told The News Tribune:
“He is one of my absolute favorite members of Congress, who takes joy in legislating, in solving problems. I fought with him more than I agreed with him, but his door was never closed.” Sen. Patti Murray, referring to Dicks’ successful effort to remove dams on the Elwha River and create a giant watershed for Chinook salmon, told Seattlepi.com:
“What has his role not been? Whenever an obstacle appeared, large or small, he was there to find a solution and to keep the project moving." Murray, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the paper candidly when she learned of Dicks’ retirement, “My job just got harder.”
Dicks concluded his career in Congress as the ranking Democratic member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Senator Debbie Regala ’68, a courageous and gracious Washington state senator, has spent much of her political career pursuing issues that make a difference in the lives of the vulnerable—using her experience and persuasive powers to win victories on multiple fronts.
The Tacoma-born senator, a graduate of Stadium High School and University of Puget Sound, has served the people of the 27th district for 18 years, first in the House of Representatives (1995–2000) and then in the state Senate. She retired in 2012, leaving a legacy marked by the numerous honors bestowed on her by organizations as diverse as the Children’s Trust Foundation to the Washington State Bar Association.
Noting with concern significant gaps and injustices in the state’s social services system, Regala sponsored and supported bills that senators could not easily oppose. The Senate unanimously passed her 2011 bill focused on ensuring greater accountability and effective outcomes for families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) and WorkFirst services. In the Senate she helped develop sweeping reforms in Washington’s prison system. As co-chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, she helped write the 1999 Forests and Fish law.
Regala’s compassionate adherence to principles of fairness often made her life, personal and political, less than easy. She stood up against the death penalty in a state that has held firm on capital punishment for more than 30 years. And she co-sponsored the Marriage Equality Act supporting same-sex marriage in 2012, drawing criticism from her own parish members.
Regala has served with distinction on the Legislative Ethics Board, Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, Correctional Industries Board, and Office of Public Defense Advisory Committee. She served the Senate Democratic caucus as assistant floor leader, majority whip, and caucus vice-chair.
Outside of political office, Regala has been a director or member of more than a dozen organizations, including the Council for Children and Families, The Nature Conservancy of Washington, American Leadership Forum, and Point Defiance Zoological Society.
Among the many recognitions she has received for her courageous advocacy are the 2009 Champion of Family Support Award from the Children’s Trust Foundation, the 2008 Legislative Champion award from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, and the 2012 Washington State Bar Association Outstanding Elected Official Award.
When the bar association award was presented, James Bamberger, director of the Office of Civil Legal Aid commented:
“Senator Regala ... leads with dignity and respect for all, regardless of their viewpoints, and has had the courage to take on touchy issues and issues that are not well understood by the public. [She] has had a tremendously positive impact on Washington’s legal system and on ensuring fairness and justice for all.”
Press photos of The Hon. Norm Dicks and Sen. Debbie Regala can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos
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