Professorship Named for Esteemed Judge and Long-Time Puget Sound Trustee James Dolliver

By Denise Ploof

At its October meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the naming of a National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professorship for James M. Dolliver. The former Washington State Supreme Court justice served on the Puget Sound board for 30 years, retiring last May.

Puget Sound Board of Trustees Chairman William T. Weyerhaeuser said that Dolliver embodied the values inherent in a liberal arts education. "Jim Dolliver vigorously championed academic rigor and the importance of a thorough grounding in the arts and sciences as the best preparation for a career," said Weyerhaeuser. "His own experiences combined with a wealth of knowledge from literature, history, philosophy and music fostered both a deep wisdom and a strong ethic which he constructively brought to bear on all the issues the board addressed during his tenure. He is a Renaissance man and clearly deserving of this honor."

In addition to conducting a private law practice, first in Port Angeles and later in Everett, Dolliver twice served as administrative assistant to top state executives–for Congressman Jack Westland from 1955 to 1961 and Governor Dan Evans from 1965 to 1976. He joined the Washington State Supreme Court in 1976, served as chief justice from 1985 to 1987, and retired in 1999. Many considered Dolliver the court’s brightest intellectual light, one of its most prodigious workers and one of its most politically attuned justices. His wit, kindness and charitable work also set him apart.

Puget Sound President Susan Resneck Pierce said that Dolliver has been an unusually articulate supporter of the value of a liberal arts education. "He and his wife, Barbara, both embody the Jeffersonian notion that the liberal arts prepares people to become informed and contributing citizens."

Dolliver says the most significant case to come before him in his 22 years on the Supreme Court was a 1978 case, Seattle Schools v. State. Dolliver joined with the majority in ruling that local levies could not be used to fund school operations. That created a mandate that the Legislature define "basic education" and fully fund it from stable tax sources.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Professorship was originally established at Puget Sound in 1996. Through the program, every three years a Puget Sound professor is awarded the distinguished professorship to hone his or her teaching skills. English Professor Rob Garratt currently holds the professorship.