Puget Sound will honor Baarsma, a local historian and prominent civic leader, in its 131st Commencement Ceremony.

TACOMA, Wash. – Historian and former Tacoma mayor William H. “Bill” Baarsma ’64, P’93 will deliver the Commencement address at University of Puget Sound’s 131st Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2023. The Logger alumnus will also receive the honorary degree Doctor of History, the highest distinction bestowed by the university.

Bill Baarsma ’64, P’93

During Baarsma's tenure as mayor (2002-09) and council member (1992-99) of the City of Tacoma, he advocated for historic preservation projects like the restoration of Union Station and the Murray Morgan Bridge and oversaw initiatives to improve the quality of life for all Tacomans, including the cleanup of the Foss Waterway, the opening of the Museum of Glass and Tacoma Art Museum, and the launch of the largest municipally-owned telecommunications system in North America. In addition, Baarsma supported early efforts to redress the violent expulsion of Chinese residents from Tacoma in 1885 through the creation of the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park.

He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Puget Sound in 1964 before earning a master’s degree and a doctorate in public administration from George Washington University. While in graduate school, Baarsma was one of 20 graduate students chosen for a coveted student assistantship with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and later worked on the staff of Senator Henry M. Jackson. Baarsma is active in civic life, serving as immediate past president of Tacoma Historical Society and on the boards of several nonprofit organizations.

In 2021, he was awarded the Washington State Historical Society’s Robert Gray Medal in recognition of his contributions to the preservation and teaching of Pacific Northwest history. Baarsma received the School of Business and Leadership Award of Distinction in 2010 and the university’s Service to Community Award in 2014. He was previously a member of Puget Sound’s faculty, teaching courses in business management, public administration, political science, and urban studies from 1968 to 2001.

Puget Sound’s 131st Commencement Ceremony will be held in Baker Stadium on Sunday, May 14, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. For more information about this year’s ceremony, visit pugetsound.edu/commencement.