A retired director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will be the newest regent for the Washington State University system.
The university and Gov. Jay Inslee's office announced Lura Powell's appointment to the WSU Board of Regents on Monday morning. Her term runs to 2019, and she will take the seat vacated by Fran Forgette, a Tri-City attorney, whose term ended in the fall.
"Lura has played a key role in shaping the development and expansion of life sciences research in our state," Inslee said in a release. "She has a deep passion for the opportunities afforded by a strong research enterprise and higher education system."
Powell, who has a long track record of civic and educational projects, said she is excited to help advance the system and the Richland campus, which she has been involved with since arriving in the Mid-Columbia 14 years ago.
"There's always been a close collaboration between (PNNL), Pullman and the Tri-Cities campus," she said.
Powell retired from the national lab in 2002 after three years at its helm. She previously worked in the U.S. Department of Commerce ,where she started a biotechnology division.
Powell recently resigned as chairwoman of the board of the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund, a multimillion dollar program that finances life sciences research.
She also sat on the commission that redrew the 10th congressional district's boundaries in 2011. She has been involved with the Tri-City Development Council, or TRIDEC; Delta High School, a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, school in Richland; and Soroptimist International and the Tri-Cities Evolution Task Force, a community development initiative.
WSU also has figured heavily in Powell's activities. She was involved in the past two chancellor searches for the Tri-City campus, including the one that brought Chancellor H. Keith Moo-Young last summer. She also was part of the group that developed the plan for converting the campus to a full four-year program.
"Lura Powell is a wonderful addition to the WSU Board of Regents, with proven support of WSU Tri-Cities and of our community," Moo-Young said in a statement. "More importantly, her scientific background, world view and leadership experience will enhance our efforts to increase access to STEM education, build strategic partnerships and grow a dynamic and innovative campus."
Powell said she is particularly interested in helping research developed on WSU campuses across the state transition to private sector investment businesses, creating jobs in communities like the Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Pullman. However, the university, like other higher education institutions, also faces challenges, particularly when it comes to declining levels of financial support from the state.
"It's going to be an interesting time for the whole system," Powell said.
Powell and others were appreciative of Forgette's efforts as regent for the past nine years. Moo-Young said Forgette advocated for the Richland campus, helping bring about the Bioproducts Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, or BSEL building, and the Wine Science Center on the campus, as well as the new nursing school facility in central Richland.
"I've got to tell you, he'll be a tough act to follow," Powell said.
w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; email@example.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald