Remembering Jane Decker

The University of Washington Bothell invites the community to help honor our colleague, friend, and “Founding Faculty” member Jane Decker, who passed away on February 21, 2008, at a celebration of life event on Friday, March 14 at 10:00 a.m. in the North Creek Events Center on the UW Bothell campus.Jane left an indelible mark on our campus and in the lives of all of those she touched. You are invited to share your fond memories below.

24 Responses to “Remembering Jane Decker”

  1. Janet McDaniel Says:

    When I started working at UWB in the summer of 1994 I appreciated Jane’s constant enthusiasm, philosophical thinking and perseverance in making the UWB campus a reality for the Bothell, Woodinville and surrounding community. She was dignified and had the resilience when it looked like the campus progress was taking a step backward because of conditions out of her control. Jane being a damn good team player we are here today in this beautiful campus. I thank Jane Decker for having the guts and tenacity to make it happen.
    Jane, thank you, for showing your appreciation to me with your kind words when I began working at University of Washington Bothell campus all those years ago.

  2. fritz wagner Says:

    I knew Jane when she was teaching in Florida. I participated in variuos meetings with her and got to know her quite well. She was a fine academic and a highly motived person. When you wanted to get something done all you needed to do was ask Jane and it would get done. Her colleagues and students have much to thank her. She will be missed.

  3. Ruth Ridgeway Says:

    I will always remember Ms. Decker by her kindness to her students and her smile she brought with her to class. After taking one of her classes at UWB, I will always remember her enthusiasm for life and teaching. She will be greatly remembered and missed.

  4. Richard de Zoysa Says:

    My first meeting with Jane was in 1983 at the University of North Florida where I was a visiting professor from London. Jane lived down the same corridor so we soon struck up a conversation which over that year developed into a friendship. Over many years Jane visited my wife and I in London on many occasions and this extended to her bringing students from Bothell to my own university.
    Her passions were for all things Irish, French politics and English theatre including its political system where she was very informed and engaged. We worked together on a number of programmes usually around the kitchen table with a glass of wine trying to figure out what the students needed to know about contemporary British society and what theatre visits would engage their minds and emotions. There was a lot of discussion, no little argument and finally resolution.
    She was a good person. Incredibly kind and committed and so concerned her students would maximise their time in London in extracting as much as they could from the capital and what it had to offer. Her attention to detail in arranging these complicated visits was exemplary and though it could get worrying the rewards were vast. O

  5. Jasmine Svare Says:

    I met Jane before I knew she was a professor at UWB. I met her through mutual friends, we were more like a family. Jane was the kind of person I always had the best conversations with, she was brilliant. I loved her laugh, you could tell when she was really happy because her eyes would sparkle. She had a positive attitude about everything bad that would happen. Her house flooded and she just shrugged it off and waited patiently for the water to dry out, or whatever they were doing with her house. I know that Jane had her good days and her bad days, but I know that she made my days happier. I am so glad that I got to know her and I hope she is at peace. We used to go shopping at Eddie Bauer, that was her favorite store. Even though she was at least twenty years older than me she shopped like me. If she liked a shirt, she bought it in every color! And then she bought the socks to match. I am thankful that I knew Jane, even though it was just for a short period of time. God bless her.

  6. Annalisa Hiroyasu Says:

    Although I knew Professor Decker for a short time, her passion for teaching her students shined through. Thanks to her, I know way more about the British political system than the American one. Ever since she stopped teaching last spring she has always been on my mind. I am glad to know now that she is in a peaceful place. I am glad to have spent a brief period of time with a very intelligent and passionate educator.

  7. Linda Watts Says:

    One of the things I admired most about Jane was her exceptional capacity for seeing and valuing other people’s’ talents.

    If she learned that you had even the slightest experience in an area, she would remember that, and thereafter identify you to other colleagues as a “fox” in that area. Jane wasn’t merely flattering us, she was mentoring us. She respected others deeply, and knew both how to promote people for their abilities and how to hone those abilities through use.

    Make no mistake– Jane saw our failings, but she instead chose to recognize our strengths.

    She read — and led–us all generously.

  8. Carol Sullivan Says:

    My memories of Jane are intertwined with those of my childhood. Jane’s father, Wendell, and my mother, Betty, were first cousins. They were part of a large web of cousins that continued to connect into their adulthood. I remember playing at Jane’s house in Portland. She was a year younger than I, and we both had younger brothers. We later reconnected at the University of Oregon as undergraduates. Her area of interest was political science, and mine was literature and journalism. After that, our paths crossed only ocassionally as I moved to California with my growing family. In more recent years, we spoke many times as we both cared for another of our parent’s cousins, Kenny Decker. Jane’s concern and compassion for Kenny was evident in all that she did for him in his final years. I’m sorry that I didn’t know her better, or know her professionally. Your comments attest to her uniqueness.

  9. Linda Oakley Says:

    I took a class with Jane in 2005 about Great Britain, and always felt it was a great privilege to do have done so. She was utterly charming, kind and patient, and very much interested in her students. Her passion and depth of knowledge for British history and culture were nothing short of amazing. I learned a great deal from her about my home country.

    As I read about her accomplishments and reflect back to my many conversations with her, I realize how modest she was. And yet, whenever probed for more information about a topic in class, she would eagerly engage in sometimes lengthy conversations revealing her passion and deep understanding about what she was teaching. She was always very bubbly at these times. She was a wonderful woman to have as a leader and champion at UWB.

    I wish to express my sincere condolences to Jane’s family, friends, colleagues and students.

  10. Catherine Duffy Says:

    What a shock to read of Jane’s passing today. She will be deeply, deeply missed. I was one of Jane’s Capstone advisees during my 2004 - 2005 Master of Arts in Policy Studies school year. Having agreed to be my co-advisor along with an Evans School professor, Jane soon found herself holding the job single-handedly when my other professor became pregnant and planned to leave school in early spring. With her personable, unflappable disposition, Jane took the responsibility in stride and supported me wholeheartedly throughout the long, grueling process. One of my favorite conversations with Jane took place over a lunch we had after graduation was complete. As I explained some of the roadblocks I saw ahead of me, Jane saw only possibilities…and encouraged me accordingly. In many ways, she was a true giver of life. I am blessed to have known and enjoyed her company, her wit, and her dear heart.

  11. Colin Danby Says:

    Jane had a special talent for collegiality and friendship, and a wit that cut quickly through to whatever was most important. I often turned to her for advice, and learned much from her example about how to be a faculty person. As Linda says, she supported us and reminded us why we were here. There was never any question for her that our students came first.

    Her research and intellectual life moved effortlessly across politics, art, and the environment; she knew French, Irish, and British history and politics and was immensely well read: a genuine interdisciplinary scholar. And I hope it’s not out of place here to mention Julia, Jane’s excellent Schnauzer and, like her, willful, loyal, and affectionate. I had the opportunity to care for Julia during some of Jane’s absences and am happy to report that she has a good home with Jane’s niece.

  12. Natasha Hundley Says:

    I will never forget Professor Decker’s laugh. The sound of her laugh made me smile and always kept me attentive during a Management and Organizations evening class. She will be greatly missed.

  13. Sarah Amos Bond Says:

    I am very sad to hear of Jane’s passing. I had classes with her as both an undergraduate and a graduate at UWB and very much enjoyed her teaching and her presence at the campus. I worked with her on an independent study project many years ago and I learned a great deal from her. It’s hard to imagine UWB without her.

  14. Dodie Smith Says:

    I am shocked and saddened by the passing of Professor Decker. Professor Decker was instrumental in my success as a returning, first generation student. She encouraged me in my first quarter as a UWB undergraduate when I asked myself, what the heck was I doing in college after 25 years away! With her encouragement and support, I went on to be the first person in my family to obtain a college degree, and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Her desire to seek feedback from the students of UWB as she was developing the programs made me feel like an contributor to the success of UWB. She is, and will always be, an integral part of UWB’s success, and mine as well.
    She will hold a special place in my heart. I will miss you, Professor Decker.

  15. Georgia Kalasountas Says:

    My fondest memory of professor Decker, (or Jane as I got to know her over the years working here at Common Grounds) include the flattering comments she made over her double tall Americano. “Tully’s always makes the best” she said. Her drink became known as the “Jane Decker” special. She will be missed and it seems that UWB will never be quite the same.

  16. Marna Burrell LMP Says:

    I was blessed to love and support Jane on a very special adventure in her life. I will always remember her soft voice and humble spirit. May she rest in peace.

  17. Mary Abrums Says:

    I first met Jane in 1996 when she was part of the committee that hired me for the Nursing Program. At that time, she stressed the importance of interdisciplinary teaching at UWB and was delighted that I was an anthropologist who would bring this dimension to nursing. She was a delightful person to talk to and I was excited to work with her. As I got to know her better I was never disappointed.

    Jane was always good to me. She shared her words of wisdom about teaching, about university politics, about students, whenever I asked for her advice (but she never offered them if she hadn’t been asked). I admired her ability to lead quietly, her persistence in the face of adversity, and her good humor. She always, more than anyone else, tried to create community at UWB; and often pulled those of us who worked at UWB and lived in Seattle into social gatherings at her house. She will be greatly missed.

  18. Caylin Feiring Says:

    I am shocked and saddened to read today of our loss. This was truly a loss, for all who had the privilege of knowing her. Her passion in the classroom was evident. She pushed her students to the limit she knew they possessed.

    I have fond memories of Jane. She’ll be sorely missed.

  19. Diane Gillesppie Says:

    Jane was just so good at building and nurturing community. When I interviewed for the job at UWB, she was one of the first people I met. I taught for 27 years at my former university, and felt I needed to prepare for interviews. A couple of philosophers grilled me for four hours the day before I flew out to Bothell. So there I was sitting across the desk from Jane trying to smile through my nervousness.

    Jane just started talking … and talking … and well pretty soon I realized that she wasn’t going to ask me any questions. So I started listening … and listening harder. She described the talented faculty, staff, and students at Bothell. She knew their interests and strengths and how they fit together. I realized that she was creating for me the interdisciplinary mosic that is UWB.

    By the time she finished I knew that there was a caring community here and that she had, in fact, asked me the hardest interview question: How could you NOT be at UWB?

    Every time we are generous with a colleague or do something to nurture the UWB community, we will keep Jane’s memory and spirit alive. I feel so fortunate to have shared the last ten years in her company.

  20. Chris Townsend Says:

    UW-Bothell Class of ‘97 here. I never had Jane Decker as a professor, however, I certainly do remember her name and face. Sad to see her pass. She was definitely instrumental in expanding the UW-Bothell to what it is today and also doing the same with the Liberal Arts program. My best to her family.

  21. Bob Schultz Says:


    Robert C. Schultz
    Professor Emeritus of Ethics and Social Philosophy
    University of Washington Bothell

    Good morning. As I anticipated our being here today, my first thought was that in a convocation like this, in this place, Jane Decker ought to be here as a participant—indeed, as an organizer—and not as an object of our recollections and eulogizing. But Jane was a realist and her advice to me, I know, would be: “Bob, let go of dreaming of what ought to be and face the facts.

    Some of my favorite memories of Jane go back to those days in early May of 1990 when the 12 founding faculty of UW Bothell gathered for the first time at the Ramada Inn over on Beardsley Boulevard. Actually there was a 13th member of this incipient community in that gathering, our founding librarian Cynthia Fugate. Cynthia, often working closely with Jane, contributed as much as any of the rest of us to transforming that original bland building in an office park into a community of learners– joined together and alive with the spirit of a university campus.

    Our task in that very first faculty meeting was to create a curriculum for the students who would show up on the 1st of October. The Campbell Committee on the Seattle campus had provided a bare outline for us– Comparative U.S. and Comparative International Studies. I remember Jane sitting at the end of a long table and asking each of us, in effect, to complete this sentence—The courses I am prepared to teach within that framework are the following . . . . And we completed those sentences. And we had our first curriculum. It was exciting. I remember Jane in that setting as smart and focused—and determined from the get-go to nurture us into a truly collaborative, truly interdisciplinary community of scholars.

    I remember, too, from those Ramada Inn days a particular moment when Jane and I sat at a table for two at lunch and she said to me, “You know, Bob, I’m going to need your help in this undertaking, given that you are one of the two full professors in this group.” Now any self-respecting faculty member knows to be wary when an administrator corners you and asks you for your help. But I assured her—with just a little caveat in mind about the indispensable role of faculty automony– that I wanted to support her—and I knew we all did–as she led the way in this new venture. And so for seven years Jane led our Arts and Sciences faculty and earned, if not always our everyday affection, certainly a deep and abiding appreciation for her enormous efforts to make our institution-building activities successful.

    There is a memory from our first commencement that speaks, for me, to Jane’s way of being present to the moment and effective in her actions. The Regents, including Mary Gates, came to our Canyon Park campus on that June evening in 1992 and marched with us and those first graduates along the hallway into the Commons at the end of the building. Thanks to Jeanne Heuving, we had secured the poet Tess Gallagher as our first commencement speaker. But before she spoke there were remarks by Provost Laurel Wilkening. Midway through the Provost’s remarks, our late and much-loved colleague Patrick Morris got up and walked out. “Well, I know Patrick’s a radical,” I thought to myself; but I didn’t think the Provost had said anything that far out of line that he should get huffy and let out his inner rebel. But it was Jane who grasped immediately that Patrick had suffered a mild heart attack. Unobtrusively but efficiently she saw to it that the fire department medics came quickly to the other end of the building (without sirens!); then she quietly slipped back into her front-row seat and instructed me to assume Patrick’s role of faculty marshal to adjourn the ceremony when it was completed. And by her presence of mind, she ensured that our first 16 graduates enjoyed the uninterrupted and joyful commencement they had worked so hard to be a part of.

    As the years went along, I learned to know Jane’s capacity for kindness and generosity. I also came to know her stubborn side. I had come from my previous university carrying a strong conviction that the academic advising of students was the proper—and very important—business of faculty, not of staff members. Jane made it perfectly clear to me that academic advising at UW Bothell was going to be done, and done well, by staff, working in the Director’s office. And sure enough it was done and done well—by another strong woman, named Kathryn Cavil. I had also come to UWB with some ideas about the value of graduate teaching assistants. Jane and I butted heads on that one for a while, too. But on these and on other issues, we got past our disagreements because of the clear commitment of all of us to students and student learning as our paramount concern.

    It’s a sad day when we must come together here to memorialize our colleague, our teacher, our friend, Jane Decker. But there can be joy in our thanksgiving for what she gave us. As I reflected the other day on Jane’s life and mission here at UW Bothell, a familiar phrase came to mind. You’ll recognize it from having seeing it often on the doors of certain vehicles that we pass on the streets—vehicles whose drivers occasionally invite us to pull over to the curb for a little chat. Jane was in our midst, I believe “to serve and to protect” the life and well being of this community of scholars. We owe her a debt of gratitude for that legacy. And in her memory, we may hope and expect that those who lead this institution into the future will continue “to serve and to protect” in this place.

  22. Tom Taylor Says:

    Seattle, WA 3/18/2008

    I am shocked and stunned to learn of Jane Decker’s death.
    I have known Dr Jane Decker since she first started teaching Political Science in the early seventies at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville; I was one of her first Public Policy students and I am proud to say that we were friends who managed to stay in touch every few years over the last twenty-five or so.
    Jane had a penchant for “starting” things. UNF in the early days of its’ existence was an upper level institution (basically, for working adults) with only 3 or 4 buildings and an aggressive plan for expansion, but no Drama Department……so, Jane convinced the Dean that the school was ready for a little home-grown entertainment and she produced and directed really thoughtful plays like “The Visit” and “Trojan Women.” It was tough finding players in “baja Georgia,” but anyone who knew Jane understands how well she could “convince” people to participate….she just kept at it until she got what she wanted.
    I have read with great interest and amazement the things that she had accomplished at UWB, but I am not surprised. Nor will I be surprised to read time and time again how she positively impacted the lives of her students and peers. She was a remarkable, many faceted lady who enhanced the lives of the people who came in contact with her. She will always be my most memorable teacher and friend.
    Tom Taylor
    UNF 1973-81

  23. Dale Lothrop Clifford Says:

    For myself, I remember so much that it is still both wonderful and sad to call it all up. Jane and I were two of five women in the College of Arts & Sciences (a faculty of perhaps 40 at the time) when the University of North Florida opened in 1972. We soon discovered that we both focused our research on revolutionary France — she worked on the student-worker revolts of 1968, and I was looking at revolutionary National Guardsmen in the 18th and 19th centuries. A common love for Paris is always a bond, and we did many research trips — and a few pleasure trips as well — to Paris and elsewhere. We also worked together on building the new university — in addition to our disciplines, we worked on Venture Theatre (which Jane founded, and whose early productions she directed) and on faculty governance. Jane’s incisive intellect, her clear vision of what we could build, and her joy in the life of the mind are responsible for much of the success of this university.

    Jane was truly an inspiring teacher, as her former students continue to tell me. She is remembered fondly by former students, by her colleagues, and by the local government leaders with whom she worked in the Center for Local Government. She left us far too soon, but she is very much present in memory in Jacksonville, as I am sure she is in Seattle.

  24. Steve DeLue Says:

    Jane was my first real colleague in academic life. I remember meeting her soon after we had both arrived at UNF in August of 1973. She had already been chosen to help lead the Di Vinci general education program. And how perfect a person she was for that job. She came to UNF with a first-class education in political science, but just as importantly she had a wonderful grasp of theatre, the arts, history, and philosophy. Above all else, she loved to talk about all of this and could not keep herself from mixing together her different understandings when talking about anything. I listened to her talk about politics, not just with references to the political science literature, which of course were many and always on target, but she always, somewhere during the discussion, brought into play perspectives from all the other areas of knowledge that she had at her command. I always left better informed about whatever she talked about, and, to be honest, a bit overwhelmed. But there was never in Jane anything like academic snobbery. So it was possible to feel overwhelmed but never diminished personally. Her discourses were entirely uplifting and I always carried away with me the notion that there are some people who are living, breathing embodiments of the liberal arts and sciences, and Jane was proof of this point beyond any shadow of any doubt!

    Perhaps after this, what I most remember are Jane’s sympathetic, sincere deep blue eyes, that way she looked at me when I talked, with rapt attention, thinking carefully and considerately about everything I was saying, no matter how off the wall or silly. How many times, I would in my discussions with her build up to some grand point, work slowly, carefully, and at times even methodically. It would take a long time to get there, I know. If I had had to listen to myself, I would have lost patience long before I got to where I wanted to get to. But not Jane. She would sit there, with her eyes riveted on my face, taking in my body language as well as my words, and she always helped me along with her facial expressions of interest and empathy. Finally, I would arrive at wherever I hoped to get, and she would summarize for me what I had said to show she understood, add a few points of insight, carry on a bit herself, sometimes at length. I would always leave feeling that rush of adrenalin that comes from a discussion with depth, from a communicative moment that works to engender new ways of seeing or different ways of understanding.

    I learned a great deal in fact how to be a teacher from Jane. I knew that what she did for me in our conversations, I best do for the students. If I could, I knew I could be an effective classroom teacher. This was important to me because at bottom, I was a very shy person who had trouble standing before all those probing looks on the faces of my students. Sometimes, just to see these “looks” disarmed me and threw me off course. But what helped me to overcome all of that was thinking of the style of conversation I always had with Jane. I pictured a group of students listening with consideration and deliberative attention just as Jane did. In my classes, I spoke to that face, to Jane. And it worked for me then and still does now. I doubt I would have lasted very long in the profession without the experience of talking to Jane about so many important issues and things.

    As a friend, Jane was wonderful. I remember after our first child, Erik, was born, Karen and I wanted very much to go out to a movie and dinner. But we did not want to leave our first born with a baby sitter, especially some teenager we hardly knew. Our parents were not around to help us. We really did feel abandoned at times. How wonderful it would be to get out again. It would be so much easier to get back to the daily routine. We happened to mention this to Jane. One night, Jane came over and told us that the babysitter had arrived. She told us to get out of the house, go to a movie, dinner, the works, and don’t worry about a curfew. She would be there when we returned and Erik would be in great hands. How wonderful she was to do that for us, and we still remember that time as so important to us and to our marriage.

    She did the same thing for us years later when our daughter, Anna, and second son Dan, were in Seattle. Dan had just left our house for law school and Anna was at a summer camp for kids. Both were a bit homesick, especially Anna. So we worked out a chance to visit Seattle and Jane who was in Europe during the time we planned to be in Seattle offered us her home. What a great thing to do for us! It helped us create a wonderfully, powerful memory with two of our children, something that we retain to this day. And Jane made it readily possible.

    I look back on the early days of UNF now as a golden time in my life. This was a time when classes were reasonable in size, when colleagues worked together to build interesting and exciting curricula, and when we complained about the corporate mentality that we worried might overtake the university and threaten the teacher/scholar voice in each of us. We socialized together on the beach and at the various restaurants and homes of folks. Most of us had little money and didn’t care that this was the case. There was community arising from the sense that we shared a common world, most especially our aspirations for the life of the thinking, probing, and cultivated intelligence. What more could any one have or ever want in life? As always in these circumstances, there are some people that stand out as the embodiment of all that holds a community together. Jane was that person for our community. She helped to cultivate so much energy, so much possibility—the stuff of community that we all felt in those days. Now, I believe that what inspires one in youth often lives with a person for the rest of one’s life. At least that is true in my case. Those early moments at UNF have become permanent parts of my memory and my identity, so much so that they have given me the energy and passion to address many things that I later experienced in the rest of my life and career. And because Jane was at the center of this experience, when I think of those wonderful early days, as I often do, I am always reminded of Jane, of those smiling eyes, of that wonderful sense of humor, of that enlightened, cosmopolitan person, who was always at the center of things that gave us—that gave me– inspiration.

    Jane’s passing leaves me with a sense of deep loss.