January 13, 2014
It is with tremendous sadness, appreciation and respect that I pass along the news to you that Warren Lawless – Chairman Emeritus of the WesternU Board of Trustees, and one of the chief architects of the WesternU we know today – passed away Sunday in Seattle. He was 95.
Warren served as chairman of the Board of Trustees for more than 30 years, taking the helm a scant 10 months after the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific’s inaugural class had graduated. As you can imagine, it was a time of tremendous growth and change for COMP and for California’s reinvigorated osteopathic medical community.
Warren’s background as a private businessman and as an advocate for education and osteopathic medicine – he served in several capacities for the Washington Osteopathic Medical Association (WOMA), including as its executive director and chief lobbyist – made him a perfect fit to lead the Board. Over the course of three decades, he was the living bridge that connected pragmatic, growth-oriented business tactics with idealistic vision and enthusiasm. Indeed, much of what WesternU is today is the direct result not only of his business sense, but his passion for humanism and education.
Warren had a staunch belief in the high quality of our students, faculty, and staff; a deep commitment to building and maintaining resources to match their talents and WesternU’s mission serving its communities; and an unwavering philosophy that anything was possible if we simply believed it could happen, and put the best of our hearts and minds into it.
Those who knew and worked with Warren, and even those who only briefly met him, were always impressed by how positive and enthusiastic he was about WesternU, and about what an accomplishment he believed the University to be. This was a tremendous compliment coming from someone as accomplished as Warren himself. In conversation, he would describe himself as “just a print shop owner from West Seattle,” but he was much more than that. He was a veteran of World War II, serving as an electrician’s mate in Navy in the Pacific Theater, and studied business and the humanities at the University of Washington while working as a journeyman typographer for the West Seattle Herald. He rose steadily through the newspaper’s ranks, eventually becoming manager of retail advertising sales before leaving to start his own printing and management company in the late 1960s, which he operated until his retirement in 1988.
Warren also was deeply involved in community service, as part of the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce but most notably as a member of the West Seattle Kiwanis Club, where he held several positions, including president and secretary. He earned the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce 110% Award in 1983, was named West Seattle Kiwanian of the Year twice (1979 and 1990), earned Pacific Northwest District Kiwanis Distinguished Secretary honors four straight years (1992-95), and was a member of the Kiwanis Legion of Honor for 35 years of membership.
Warren made his mark on Washington’s osteopathic medical profession, serving several positions in WOMA, as I mentioned earlier, and earning not only that organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award, but the American Osteopathic Association Distinguished Service Award in 2001.
Closer to us at WesternU, Warren received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from COMP in 1980, and in 1997 received the University’s Humanism in Medicine Award. We also were pleased to host a “family reunion” of Lawless relatives during COMP-Northwest’s Commencement weekend in Lebanon this past August, bringing together Warren’s blood relatives and members of his WesternU family to share memories.
Warren’s wife, Elizabeth (Betty) passed away several years ago; he is survived by two sons, John and Michael, in addition to several other family members.
Funeral services are pending.
As all of us move forward following this loss, I am confident we will keep within us the passion, positivity and perseverance that are Warren Lawless’ legacy at Western University of Health Sciences and in the lives of all those he encountered. His own words serve as encouragement to do exactly that. As recently as 2012, in comments for his Message from the Chairman section of our Annual Report, Warren – then 93 years old – waxed enthusiastic about the University’s success, and about its future. “An amazingly talented team of stakeholders have invested their dedication and passion in an institution headed for a position of historic significance in health care education,” he said. “It has been valuable to focus on polishing every aspect of methodology, practices, and planning needed to create a platform from which to launch our next period of growth and improvement.
“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to participate by offering my experience and what I have learned in a long career in osteopathic association management.”
It is we who are grateful, Warren. Godspeed.
My best to you all,