November 2, 2022

Event Recap | 60th Anniversary Celebration

60th Anniversary Celebration Save the Date

On October 27, 2022, nearly 400 guests joined the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance in celebrating six decades of inspiring public service.

Honoring the Past

In honor of our 60th anniversary, we commissioned a documentary about the life and legacy of our school’s namesake: Daniel J. Evans. Dan’s approach to bipartisan discussion and action have had a lasting, positive impact for Washingtonians. As he shares in the film, “Not all good ideas come from one side of the political aisle. I’ve never seen a Democratic highway or Republican school. These have to be done together, and that’s where the big successes have been.”

Celebrating the Achievements of Today

We launched a new tradition with the presentation of Public Leadership Awardsan opportunity to honor individuals aligned with the Evans School’s purpose to inspire public service and democratize public policy. Congratulations to 2022 recipients Veronica Very, Kymber Waltmunson, the Washington State Supreme Court, and Vicki Aken. During a powerful panel conversation, we heard more about the context for their work and the tools and practices they have developed to lead with integrity in the face of challenges.

From left: Awardees Veronica Very, Kymber Waltmunson, and Chief Justice Steven González, and Dean Jodi Sandfort

“In my own home state, and my own home city, and in almost 55 years of life, this is the first time I’ve been acknowledged and recognized, and the first time I’ve felt seen […] For my work to be recognized at such a time as this, it means that I get to have a conversation with my city, my state, and my nation about how it is that we’re seen—people who look like me.” -Veronica Very, Founder & Visionary at Wonder of Women International

“‘Yay the auditor is coming!’ said no one ever. I think of my ways of getting grounded in the chaos and when overwhelmed are fairly practical. I have an appointment every afternoon that says, ‘look out the window.’ […] When you create space for yourself, you’re able to take that deep breath and to recommit to the challenge that is always in front of you.” -Kymber Waltmunson, King County Auditor

“My mother used to say, ‘if everybody likes you, you don’t have principles.’  In this world there are difficult issues and there will be people on two sides of it. And you can try to please everyone, or you can try to decide what’s right and do it regardless of what other people think.” Chief Justice Steven González, Washington State Supreme Court 

Award Receipients

Community Catalyst Awardee Veronica Very

Research proves grassroots leadership is a critical component of any community’s wellbeing. The Community Catalyst Award recognizes a leader whose efforts impact not just any community, but one which they call home, too. This individual is celebrated for their consistent efforts to foster collaboration, amplify local voices with special attention to historically underrepresented groups, and maintain proximity to those who are impacted most by their work.

Veronica Very is founder and visionary of Wonder of Women International and the nation’s newest cultural destination experience, WOW Gallery. She is the visionary creator of the ‘Dear Sista, I See You,’ Healing Art Exhibition that unapologetically centers Black Women, Black Love, and the Black Community in the heart of Downtown Seattle’s economic corridor in Pacific Place Mall. Very inspires and encourages the healing of systematic and racial trauma in Black people by using an ancestrally guided framework of storytelling which builds community and spaces for reflection, renewal, restoration, and rejuvenation. Very is a force of a nature and the commitment she has demonstrated to justice and healing for the Black community is nothing short of incredible.

Systems Changemaker Awardee Kymber Waltmunson

The Systems Changemaker Award recognizes a leader with remarkable sensitivity to the future and courageous determination to do what is necessary today to inspire a better tomorrow. They use strategic and pragmatic leadership as a medium to create change. And while their individual influence can move mountains, this changemaker intentionally shares power and responsibility. They understand systems change is most achievable when conducted as a collective effort and are a trusted convener and facilitator of collaborative action.

Kymber Waltmunson is a 2004 graduate of the Evans School Masters of Public Administration program and currently serves as King County Auditor. In this role, Waltmunson has become a powerful agent for racial equity and systems change, completing impactful audits related to jail safety, the County’s paratransit program, the Sheriff’s Office traffic stop patterns, public defense management, homelessness, and more. Her commitment to changing the systemic issues that beguile our community from within her sphere of influence is remarkable.

Dean’s Leadership Awardee Washington State Supreme Court

Represented by Chief Justice Steve C. González

The Dean’s Leadership Award celebrates an individual or group committed to equity, radical courage, and uncompromising servant leadership. This leader is not afraid to run against the grain where required to support human dignity, embrace diversity, and foster democratic ideals.

The Washington State Supreme Court is receiving this award for their work towards creating a more just legal system within the state of Washington. Beginning with a signed letter in 2020 pressing for change after George Floyd’s murder and continuing into today, the State Supreme Court is making strides toward racial justice by invoking policy change directly aimed at dismantling institutionally racist legal systems. Over the past two years, the Court has taken swift action; overturning decades-long hateful precedents, vacating tens of thousands of criminal convictions, ruling that law enforcement’s history of racial bias must be considered when determining whether police stops and seizures are legal, ordering pay raises to immigrant farm workers, and more.

Dean’s Leadership Awardee Vicki Aken

The Dean’s Leadership Award celebrates an individual or group committed to equity, radical courage, and uncompromising servant leadership. This leader is not afraid to run against the grain where required to support human dignity, embrace diversity, and foster democratic ideals.

Vicki Aken serves as Country Director of the International Rescue Committee, based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Since earning her MPA from the Evans School in 2008, Aken has been an unrelenting leader for public service in countries like Sudan, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Syria and Afghanistan. Before the collapse of the government in Afghanistan, Aken and the IRC worked with the Afghan people to increase community development, healthcare, education, and access to clean water and nutritious food. After the government collapse, Aken has remained in Afghanistan and tirelessly, despite personal safety concerns, committed to restarting and adapting programs so that her staff – primarily female and nearly 99% Afghan – can continue to work and attend school. Aken’s courageous service work makes her a leader to be impressed and inspired by.

Inspiring the Work Ahead

How can you act to help create the future we need? What does it take to lead from where you sit?

These are questions the Evans School invites you to grapple with in this moment for our society and our democracy. Folks who joined us shared sticky notes to harvest a bit of the rich conversations we had in response to these questions.

As EMPA alum and Dean’s Council Member J. Eduardo Campos shared, “Beyond the critical thinking skills and academic rigor, the Evans School helped us learn how to be better human beings, better professionals, and better citizens.” 

Guided by our shared values of equity, courage, and service, the Evans School is educating leaders, generating knowledge, and hosting communities to co-create a more inclusive society. Your support and partnership help create a path to public service leadership for all who are called to serve–regardless of financial means.

Thank you to those who pledged gifts of time, talent, treasure, ties and testimony at the event. For those who haven’t yet, we hope you’ll join us today.