Remembering Dawn Lucien, Tacoma's 'grand dame'

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Dawn Lucien, a passionate advocate of both Tacoma and the UW Tacoma, died June 10 at the age of 91.

Lucien moved to Tacoma in 1947.  She and her first husband, Paul Olson, raised three children in the city.  Lucien got involved with local politics not long after arriving.  “I have felt that the government closest to you affects you the most because that’s the one that fixes the potholes in the streets,” said Lucien in a 2009 interview with UW Tacoma Lecturer Andrew Fry as part of an oral history project.

Lucien’s list of accomplishments is long and varied.  She served on the Tacoma City Council in the 1960s.  She also served on the city’s Arts Commission, Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Commission and the Utility Board.  In 1977, Lucien became an aide to U.S. Representative Norm Dicks and worked for the congressman until 1989.

Lucien is perhaps best known for efforts to revitalize downtown Tacoma.  She helped save the Murray Morgan Bridge from demolition and worked to renovate both the Pantages Theater and Union Station. 

Lucien played an instrumental role in the creation of UW Tacoma.  She served as president of the South Puget Sound Higher Education Council - a group that was formed in 1985 with the express purpose of bringing a public university to the South Sound.  She also served as a founding member of UW Tacoma’s advisory board and was active in advocating for the university.

“I got to watch this thing grow from nothing, and reform the whole lower part of Pacific Avenue,” said Lucien.

In 2014, UW Tacoma renamed the Tacoma Room on the third floor of the Garreston Woodruff Pratt building to the Dawn Lucien Boardroom.  Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland was on hand and proclaimed August 8, 2014, as Dawn Lucien Day.

UW Tacoma Chancellor Mark Pagano calls Lucien a visionary.  “She understood Tacoma’s potential better than most and worked tirelessly to foster a sense of civic pride,” he said.  “Dawn truly loved our community and our campus and often referred to this place as ‘paradise’.”

You can read more about Dawn Lucien’s extraordinary life and contributions here:  





Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / June 12, 2017
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, Associate Director for Communications, or 253-692-4536