Bill Mohler, who helped create the state’s technical college system and served as the first president of Bates Technical College in Tacoma, died Sunday from an apparent heart attack, the college announced.
He was 71.
“Not only was Bill Mohler the first and longest-serving president of Bates Technical College, he could be called the father of the technical college system in Washington state,” said Lillian Hunter, who chairs the board of the Tacoma college. “He saw the big picture, and was future-oriented. He was dedicated to making sure Bates became recognized as a credible institution within the higher education system.”
Current Bates President Ron Langrell called the longtime Tacoma resident “a workforce mentor and an advocate for all of us in the system.
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“He was a system leader during a very formative time, both for technical colleges and workforce initiatives,” Langrell said. “His presence will continue as a legacy at our institution.”
Mohler was president of Bates from 1991 to 2000. Before that, Bates and other technical schools around the state had been part of local K-12 school districts.
Mohler, who headed the technical school when it was part of the Tacoma School District, helped draft the legislation that moved adult technical education into the state’s higher education system.
He also contributed to legislation to fund the state’s Worker Retraining and Work First programs. During his tenure as Bates president, 34 degree programs were developed.
After his retirement, Mohler was rehired by Bates in 2001 as a part-time employee dedicated to raising money for renovation of the former KSTW television studio on South 19th Street. Public television station KBTC operates from the studio as a public service of Bates.
A major expansion and reconstruction of the facility — now known as the Bates Central/Mohler Campus — is transforming it into an advanced technology center, along with the TV studio. The new center is scheduled to open within the year, Hunter said.
In 2003, Mohler was named CEO at Seattle’s public television station, KCTS. He also served on the board at TVW, Washington state’s public affairs television network.
Mohler, a graduate of Mount Tahoma High School and Pacific Lutheran University, lived for many years in South Tacoma. He is survived by his wife, Marjorie, and several adult children.