News Release: Couple described as “always about the greater good” named 2017 Seattle-King County First Citizens

BELLEVUE, Washington (March 6, 2017) – As activists, administrators and advisors, the newly-named 2017 Seattle-King County First Citizens are known for their dedication to causes, community, and country, along with their devotion to family and friends.

Medina residents Bill and Jill Ruckelshaus are the 79th recipients of the prestigious award and the eighth couple to be saluted for their inspiring leadership and contributions to the area’s quality of life.

“Bill and Jill Ruckelshaus, as dynamic individuals and as a couple, have enriched us in countless ways,” said Sam DeBord, president of Seattle King County REALTORS, which created the award in 1939.

Ruckleshaus Center Chairman’s Circle Luncheon  at Hyatt Hotel  Photo: Karen Orders Photography

Last year’s honoree, Phyllis Campbell, said the duo “have always been about the greater good, making our lives better for both current and future generations. Their imprint has been in so many places in our community and in our nation, whether it is business, politics, the environment or education,” added Campbell, the chairman, Pacific Northwest, for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Dan and Nancy Evans, who were recognized as First Citizens in 2003 for their lifelong citizenship and civic involvement, also praised this year’s award recipients for their extensive contributions. “Bill and Jill Ruckelshaus represent the epitome of public service,” they stated, adding, “Their exceptional wisdom and talents are devoted to making our community and nation better for all citizens.”

From early in their careers, Bill and Jill Ruckelshaus accumulated a significant list of accomplishments in both public and private sector endeavors.

Jill Ruckelshaus earned a reputation as a trailblazer and champion of women’s rights, with many achievements to her credit. Among the “proudest career milestones” she lists are active participation in the Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX, Americans with Disabilities Act, women in the military, pay equity, and electing more women to public office. She was a founding member of the National Political Women’s Caucus, and was the first presiding officer for the 1977 International Women’s Year Commission.

In the Nixon administration, Jill Ruckelshaus served as special assistant on women’s affairs. The former speechwriter also served as a delegate to the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Mexico City, and, from 1979-1984 on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

William Ruckelshaus’ distinguished career encompasses government agencies, nonprofits and corporations, and also includes two years of military service in the U.S. Army. Early in his career the Harvard Law School graduate was deputy attorney general and a chief counsel in the Indiana Attorney General’s office. He was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives and served as majority leader in the 1967 session his first term.

The man known as both Bill and “Ruck” served in various federal government roles dating to 1969 when he was an Assistant Attorney General. In 1970, he became the first Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency. He later became acting Director of the FBI and Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department Justice. In the event known as the “Saturday Night Massacre” Ruckelshaus resigned from his position within the Justice Department, along with Attorney General Elliott Richardson, rather than obey an order from President Nixon to fire the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. He then moved to the private sector where he practiced law in Washington, D.C. and later joined Weyerhaeuser as senior vice president. He returned to EPA as Administrator for a second term from 1983-1985. Later he was CEO at Browning-Ferris Industries from 1988-1995 and has been a strategic partner in venture capital at Madrona Venture Group since 1999.

Bill and Jill were married in Indianapolis in 1962.They have five children.

Both First Citizens have impressive academic credentials – she from Indiana University and Harvard, and he from Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

Jill and Bill Ruckelshaus have served on numerous boards. Her list of nonprofit organizations includes the YWCA, Landesa, Copper Canyon Press, Indiana University Foundation, and Seattle Symphony; her for-profit list includes Costco, Fred Meyer Stores, Lincoln National and The Seafirst Corporation.

Bill Ruckelshaus’ nonprofit board service includes the Bullitt Foundation, The Energy Foundation, The Meridian Institute, Long Live the Kings, Seattle Aquarium Society, and the Urban Institute, where he is a life trustee. He is a former board member of Coinstar, Inc., Cummins Engine Company, Nordstrom, Inc., Monsanto, Solutia Pharmacia Corporation, TVW, Weyerhaeuser Company, and several other corporations.

In 2001 Bill was appointed board member of the U.S. Presidential Commission on Ocean Policy. Two years later he was appointed to serve on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Science Advisory Board, and in 2005 he was appointed co-chair of the Puget Sound Partnership to organize the cleanup of Puget Sound. He is also chairman emeritus of World Resources Institute, a global natural resources research organization that spans more than 50 countries. He was the original chair of the Meridian Institute, a Washington problem solving institution. Bill was the co-chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative to which he was appointed by the President.

In 2004 Bill Ruckelshaus was appointed chairman of The William D. Ruckelshaus Center, a joint effort of the University of Washington and Washington State University. Together, the institutions apply university resources, knowledge, and a collaborative process to solve challenging public policy issues.

Both Bill and Jill Ruckelshaus have received individual awards for myriad accomplishments. Among more recent recognitions, she was honored as a 2014 Woman of Influence by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

In 2012, Mr. Ruckelshaus was the recipient of the NatureServe Conservation Award in honor of “the unique character, scale, and diversity of his contributions to the protection of the natural environment.”  In 2015, in recognition of his service to the country, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.

Reflecting on their decades of distinguished service, this year’s First Citizen Award winners commented on their philosophies.

“I’ve concluded there are four important criteria for what makes a job worthwhile,” stated Bill Ruckelshaus. That list includes interest, excitement, challenge, and fulfillment. He noted it is tough to find the same degree of fulfillment that he found in the government. “At EPA, you work for a cause that is beyond self-interest and larger than the goals people normally pursue. You’re not there for the money, you’re there for something beyond yourself.”

Commenting on her own leadership philosophy, Jill Ruckelshaus says “Envision change, encourage and validate others.” As for her advice for others, she believes “Excellence is a habit. Do your best work and be kind every day.”

Like many of the past honorees, the Ruckelshaus’ join an elite group of recipients whose vision, leadership, volunteerism and generosity have enhanced the region’s vibrancy and quality of life. Past recipients include individuals, couples, families and organizations; they hail from humanitarian groups, charitable, health and educational institutions, arts groups, environmental causes and various civic endeavors.

Other couples who have been honored as First Citizens include Kayla and Ned Skinner (1974); Buster and Nancy Alvord (1991); Laurie and Scott Oki (2002); Dan and Nancy Evans (2003); Jeffrey and Susan Brotman (2005); James and Sherry Raisbeck (2007); and Jamie and Karen Moyer (2011).

About the First Citizen Award

Since its inception in 1939, the First Citizen Award (believed to be this region’s oldest such recognition) continues to celebrate community leadership, volunteerism and public service.