Remembering William Ruckelshaus, winner of the inaugural Seattle Aquarium Medal

William Ruckelshaus head shot


A message from Seattle Aquarium President and CEO Bob Davidson.

We at the Seattle Aquarium were saddened to learn recently that William D. Ruckelshaus had passed away at age 87. His long and storied career led us to present him with the very first Seattle Aquarium Medal (now the Sylvia Earle Medal) in 2004.

As we shared when we presented him with that award, William Ruckelshaus achieved a record of professional, civic and corporate leadership in a distinguished career as an attorney, public servant and CEO. Of particular note to the Aquarium’s mission was his pioneering work at the Environmental Protection Agency, his contributions to national and local commissions crafting public policy for sustainable marine life, and his example as a corporate leader who acted with integrity and sensitivity to the environment.

Mr. Ruckelshaus became the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s first Administrator when the agency was formed in December 1970, and served until April 1973. During this time he established standards for this new agency for effective, vigilant and fair administration of environmental law. So clear was his record for integrity that he was called back to reestablish these standards as EPA Administrator in 1983, after serving as Weyerhaeuser’s senior vice president for law and corporate affairs in the interim.

From 1983 to 1986, he served on the World Commission on Environment and Development set up by the United Nations. From July 1997 to July 1998, President Clinton appointed him as the U.S. envoy in the implementing of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and in 1999 he was appointed by Washington Governor Gary Locke as the chairman of the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board. In 2000, he was appointed by President Bush as a member of the Commission on Ocean Policy. The Commission was required to establish findings and make recommendations to the President and Congress for a coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy, including the stewardship of marine resources and pollution prevention, enhancing and supporting marine science, commerce and transportation.

He was also chairman of World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., was a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Science Advisory Board, and served on the boards of numerous other nonprofit organizations.

Mr. Ruckelshaus will be remembered for the career highlights described here and many more—and for his extraordinary contributions and commitment to environmental conservation. As we noted in 2004 when we presented him with first Seattle Aquarium Medal, “Great care was given to the selection of the first award recipient because of the standard this sets for the future. The board found, in William Ruckelshaus, an individual whose life embodies the highest aspirations of the Seattle Aquarium as a lever for public policy awareness, concern and action to conserve our marine environment.”

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