Civic leader Dawn Lucien honored at UW Tacoma

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland calls Dawn Lucien “the grande dame of Tacoma.”

The 88-year-old civic activist is a longtime champion of restoring historic structures downtown, and was a key force in bringing a University of Washington branch campus to the city.

Now, a piece of the university Lucien helped launch will bear her name.

The University of Washington Tacoma honored Lucien on Friday by dedicating its grandest meeting room to her. About 100 people gathered to witness the announcement, which came as a surprise to Lucien.

Formerly known as the Tacoma Room, the newly renamed Dawn Lucien Room overlooks Mount Rainier, the Thea Foss Waterway and Pacific Avenue. It sits on one of the upper floors of a former warehouse that was renovated to become a central part of the UWT campus in the 1990s.

More than two decades ago, Lucien was president of the group that led the effort to establish the branch campus, which now occupies several turn-of-the-century downtown warehouses. Since then, she has urged the Legislature to increase support for the UWT, helping it grow into a four-year institution with a fall 2014 enrollment of 5,000 students.

“She is our champion,” said Herb Simon, a member of the UW Board of Regents. “She’s our inspirational leader and truly our godmother.”

Strickland said that without Lucien, downtown Tacoma would not have have gone through the rebirth of the past 25 years.

“We are standing here in this amazing revitalized downtown core because Dawn Lucien was part of our community,” Strickland said.

Lucien was a key advocate for renovating the Pantages Theater in the early 1980s, as well as reopening Tacoma’s Union Station as a federal courthouse in the early 1990s. More recently, she was president of a group dedicated to saving the ailing Murray Morgan Bridge.

During her long career in public service, Lucien also served on the Tacoma City Council and on the city’s Public Utility Board. While working in the office of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, she helped resolve disputed land claims between the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and private developers.

Lucien said Friday that she was touched that the university chose to honor her by naming the room after her.

“I can’t express it, really,” Lucien said. “To know that it’s just going to be there is beyond my ability to comprehend.”