Sherry Burkey to retire as WWU associate vice president, director of Government Relations

Western Today staff

Sherry Burkey, associate vice president and director of Government Relations for Western’s Office of University Relations and Community Development, will be retiring from the university this fall.

“Sherry Burkey has been a tireless champion for Western in Olympia, and a greatly valued part of the senior administrative leadership team. She has been tremendously effective in securing state resources to maintain Western’s quality during very difficult times and the funds to launch new programs as well,” said Western President Bruce Shepard. “As a political scientist by training and someone who often made calls on legislators with her in the capitol, I’ve seen firsthand not only how difficult her job is but how very good she is at doing it. Her passionate advocacy for Western in Olympia, her sober political perspective, and the skillful contributions she has made to the university’s current strength are much appreciated and will be greatly missed.”

Burkey has served at Western since 2005. A national search for Burkey’s successor will begin in the near future.

“It has been a true privilege to work with Sherry. She has represented Western and all of higher education in the state of Washington with class and integrity. Her expertise and professionalism will be missed by people on campus and in Olympia,” said Steve Swan, vice president for Western’s Office of University Relations and Community Development. “Sherry played a pivotal role in securing funding for exciting new academic programs and facilities, and for helping to position Western as a premier destination university. Because of her savvy and relentless efforts our university is a much better place today.”

Swan said that Burkey has been extremely effective in Olympia while advocating for Western with the Legislature, Governor and other agencies. When the recent severe economic recession prompted the Legislature to make deep funding cuts to state higher education, Burkey’s strong efforts helped offset what would have been significantly deeper cuts to Western.

Burkey’s leadership helped secure legislative funding to enhance Western’s cutting-edge Behavorial Neuroscience program and establish the Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center at Western. Burkey also was instrumental in helping Western obtain legislative funding to transition Engineering Technology programs to fully accredited engineering and new state investment to increase the number of WWU computer science graduates. Burkey also led the effort to narrow the FTE student funding gap between Western and other public universities in the state.

“Who would have thought you could make a career out of a passion for higher education and legislative politics? I’ve loved almost every day of my legislative and campus work. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with all the great people who are Western and the smart and dedicated elected leaders in Olympia,” Burkey said.

A graduate of the University of Washington, Burkey worked for more than 20 years at the University of Washington in Seattle as associate vice president for University Relations and director of Government Relations and for University of Washington Medicine as director of External Affairs, before assuming her current position at Western. Burkey also worked in Washington D.C. on the staffs of Washington U.S. Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, and Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 11:30am