Former WSU president, Sequim resident, remembered for focus on students

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Former Washington State University President Glenn Terrell, who led the college during the tumultuous late 1960s and early ’70s and fought on D-Day, died quietly in his bed at his Happy Valley home at the age of 93.

Terrell — WSU’s seventh president, serving from 1967 to 1985 — died early Friday.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2005 and died from complications related to an aggressive form of bladder cancer discovered this past spring, his wife, Gail, said Friday.

“I’ve been just so overwhelmed with how many people have called today to tell me how much he meant to them,” Gail Terrell said.

He and Gail moved to a home in Happy Valley in 2006. The couple, married 22 years, moved from the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle to be nearer to her sister.

Terrell was taken to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles with a bowel blockage Wednesday, Gail said.

He returned home Thursday and died shortly after 3 a.m. in bed alongside Gail and their dog, Buster, a Wheaten terrier/cocker spaniel cross.

Because of his Parkinson’s disease, most of his life in Sequim was spent at their home, Gail said, which often was visited by former WSU students and prominent university officials, including current President Elson Floyd and past Presidents Samuel Smith and Lane Rawlins.

“It always amazed me how many people from WSU stayed in touch and came out here to visit him,” Gail said.

Floyd called her Friday after hearing of Glenn’s death, she said.

A veteran of combat tours with the Army in World War II, Terrell was a member of the force that landed on Utah Beach on D-Day.

He left the Army with the rank of captain.

Prior to his selection as WSU president, Terrell was dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle.

Gail said one of her husband’s proudest moments was his refusal to call in the National Guard when students protesting the Vietnam War took control of several buildings on campus.

“He would always say what a good decision that was,” she said.

“How those kids grew to respect him, even though they were always in a dispute with him.”

He also took pride in his 1972 decision to hire George Raveling as the first black head coach of a major university basketball program, she said.

He was also instrumental in forming the WSU Foundation in 1979.

Known as “the students’ president,” Terrell frequently walked to work, taking time to stop and visit with students, faculty and staff along the way.

“He always stressed putting the students first,” Gail said. “That put him at odds sometimes with professors who wanted to focus on research and saw teaching as a sort of necessary evil.

“But Glenn believed the entire institution should be focused on the students.”

The center of campus through which Terrell often strolled to work is now known as the Glenn Terrell Friendship Mall.

The newer of two nearby library buildings is named the Terrell Library.

Terrell was born in Tallahassee as the son of a Florida Supreme Court justice. He earned a bachelor’s in political science at Davidson College in North Carolina, a master’s in psychology from Florida State University and a doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of Iowa.

Gail Terrell said no service has yet been planned.

She said the family likely will have a service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle.

She was unsure whether the WSU administration will plan a memorial in Pullman.

In addition to his wife, Terrell is survived by two children, Francine and William Glenn Terrell III, both of Seattle, and two grandchildren.


Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Last modified: August 31. 2013 6:12PM
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