Laurel L. Wilkening

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building
Higher Education

Honored By

Honored by: Sill, Godfrey T.
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Gateway Entry and Two Arches with Seating

Laurel achieved a number of firsts: at the University of Arizona she was the first person to serve as Dean of Sciences and first woman to serve as a Vice President. She was also the first woman to serve as Provost at the University of Washington, the first woman to serve as Chancellor at the University of California, Irvine, and the third woman to serve as a Chancellor of a University of California campus.

"The honoree is my wife, Laurel Wilkening; hence I have a great fondness for the honoree and am prejudiced, but that is natural for a husband.

I married her shortly after she arrived in Arizona. She was a very intelligent person; we were in the same field of chemistry applied to the solar system. It was a natural case for us two.

Besides being a good scientist, it became obvious to me that she was a go-getter and a natural administrator, as I know from personal experience. Her abilities and her personality were noticed by an administrator at NASA, so she was invited to spend a year at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC as the Planetary Science Division scientist. She was a big hit and was often a member of NASA studies and panels in subsequent years, as well as Vice Chair of the National Commission on Space. After her time in DC, she became Head of the Department of Planetary Sciences at UA. She knew how to get the most out of people, would take no evasions and could take the heat. All these qualities showed up in administrative posts at the Universities of Arizona, Washington and California (Irvine). There were many trying times at UC-Irvine and she conquered it all, especially the fertility clinic scandal. That was a real hot seat, but colleagues and friends rallied to her side with gusto. One administrator at the University of Washington told me that in one difficult situation where a decision had to be made one way or the other, "Laurel was the only one who had the guts!" Touche! That's my gal." --Godfrey T. Sill