College honors Whitener and Tacoma civic leader Miriam Barnett in 130th Commencement Ceremony

G. Helen Whitener
G. Helen Whitener

TACOMA, Wash. – Washington State Supreme Court Justice G. Helen Whitener will deliver the Commencement address at University of Puget Sound’s 130th Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 15, 2022. She will be recognized alongside fellow honorand and local civic leader Miriam Barnett.

Whitener is the first Black woman to serve on the Washington Supreme Court and the first Black LGBTQ+ judge in the state of Washington. She is known for her passion for human rights, access to justice, and the responsibility of the judiciary to ensure the right of all who appear before the court to basic dignity and respect in judicial proceedings. Her many honors include the Washington State Bar Association’s Charles Z. Smith Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award, the King County Washington Women Lawyers President’s Award, being named by the 400 Years of African American History Commission as 2020 Distinguished 400 Awardee, and the American Bar Association’s Stonewall Award. 

Barnett is the long-serving CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County YWCA and director of the Fund for Women and Girls for the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. During her time leading the YWCA, Barnett’s many contributions include leading two major housing development projects serving people fleeing domestic violence and experiencing housing instability and homelessness. She has served on many boards, including the Washington State Department of Commerce Building Communities Fund, the Pierce County Human Services Coalition, the Washington State Arts Commission and the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force. A community educator and artist, she has been named “Citizen of the Year” by South Sound Magazine and received the “Ruby Award” from the Pride Foundation. 

Whitener will receive the honorary degree Doctor of Laws; Barnett will be named honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The honorary degree is the highest distinction bestowed by the university. 

Puget Sound’s 130th Commencement Ceremony will be held in Baker Stadium on Sunday, May 15, from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information about this year’s ceremony, visit