McRae helped build veteran-friendly campus

Christopher McRae
Christopher McRae

Randall Christopher McRae, a graduate of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and an Army veteran who helped make the University of Washington Bothell a veteran-friendly campus, died in August in a car crash in South Carolina. He was 41.

McRae spent more than 10 years as a Ranger-qualified Army infantryman and served five deployments in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. After his military service, he attended UW Bothell and received a degree in Community Psychology in 2012. During his time on campus, he helped develop the Student Veterans Association and served as one of its first presidents. He raised funds for the Veterans Archway, which was dedicated in 2013 to honor student veterans.

“The one thing that always stood out to me was his deep sincerity to do the right thing for our vets. He was relentless in this pursuit,” said Sean Alley, the first president of the Student Veterans Association, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in Global Studies.

Impressions and impact

McRae receiving Chancellor's Medal from Kenyon Chan in 2012.
McRae receiving Chancellor’s Medal from Kenyon Chan in 2012.

“Chris made the University of Washington Bothell community stronger and kinder,” said Ben Wiselogle, a Navy veteran and 2012 graduate in Global Studies. “Whether in the veterans’ community as president of the Student Veterans Association, where I was fortunate to learn from him and support his leadership, or as a thoughtful academic in his Community Psychology program, Chris added a light to the spaces he existed in.”

Another friend said it was in McRae’s soul to serve others. “He saw the potential in everyone and wanted to help you get there, whether you had a personal goal like earning a degree or were recovering from life’s hardship,” said Erle Hunter, a Navy veteran in the Community Psychology program with McRae who also graduated in 2012.

Also making an impression on faculty, McRae received a Mary Gates Research Scholarship; the Edward E. Carlson Leadership Award, which recognizes student public service; and the UW Bothell Chancellor’s Medal.

IAS Associate Professor Eric Stewart, who nominated McRae for the Chancellor’s Medal, said he was a constant source of inspiration through his academic scholarship and support for other students and student organizations, even while struggling with his own PTSD from combat trauma.

“Chris was an amazing person. The campus and everyone who knew him benefitted from his being,” Stewart said. “His untimely death is a loss for all of us, especially when we could use so many more people like him.”

Connections and community

In a video about receiving the Chancellor’s Medal, McRae told a story about his last tour in Iraq. He had stopped a driver who seemed suspicious because he had a propane tank in his vehicle. The tension eased when he recognized McRae. The suspect was a doctor McRae had met five years earlier. While drinking tea and telling each other their stories, McRae said he realized, “I really want to work the rest of my life hearing people’s stories, connecting with them and working, not against them, but cooperatively.”

McRae wrote about his UW Bothell experience on the Veterans Services webpage. “I found the rigors of academia at UW Bothell and my work in the community to be both enriching and transformative.

“My training as a community psychologist at UW Bothell provided me with the social relationships, academic ability and theoretical frameworks to not only understand these concepts but also to use these understandings to create a plan of action and transform my passions into avocation.”

After receiving his bachelor’s at UW Bothell, McRae received a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the UW in Seattle. He later received a Master of Public Administration from Clemson University and was pursuing a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Liberty University at the time of his death.

He also had worked with community and veterans’ nonprofits in Greenville, South Carolina, and worked in sales and as a sales manager, according to his LinkedIn profile.

An example to remember

McRae had remained in contact with UW Bothell and participated as an alumnus in Veterans Appreciation Week activities, said Tiffany Kirk, interim director of alumni engagement.

“Chris was an incredible alum beloved by so many here at UW Bothell, and he had such an enormous impact on the campus and veterans’ presence and services as they exist today,” Kirk said.

Rosa Liu, who directs Veterans Services, had talked with McRae less than a month before his death. Liu said he was excited about the progress he was making toward becoming a licensed therapist to work with veterans. He made caring for other people a priority, she said.

“His heart was so about helping people,” Liu said. “The universe got this one wrong.”

Read a message from UW President Ana Mari Cauce about “A day to reflect and honor those who served.”

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