Mary Howisey named distinguished alumna

As a founding member of the University of Washington Bothell Alumni Council, Mary Howisey has presented prior recipients with the Distinguished Alumni award but never imagined that one day she would receive it, too. 

She has devoted many years to UW Bothell as a student, employee, donor and volunteer. Now, with the Distinguished Alumni Award, she is being recognized as one of the University’s outstanding alumni who have exhibited distinguished community service or professional achievements since graduation.  

“Mary Howisey is one of UW Bothell’s greatest champions and has demonstrated as much in the nearly 20 years she has been an alumna,” said Tiffany Kirk, interim director of alumni engagement. “Quite frankly, many of our successes in alumni engagement can be credited to Mary’s hard work and care. I’m so grateful for her extraordinary support.” 

Mountaintop moments

Howisey found out she was receiving the award while on a hike, which felt fitting considering obtaining her degree had felt like an uphill battle. “I used to joke that I was on the seven-year track for a two-year degree,” Howisey said. 

Her academic path had many obstacles and at times detours as she was never just a student — she was also an employee, a wife and a mother. “I didn’t want to miss out on time with my kids, but I also wanted to get this degree for myself to show them that anything is possible,” she said. “I wanted to set the example for them.” 

When Howisey first enrolled at UW Bothell, she was in the business program and didn’t feel much passion for what she was learning. So she made an appointment to speak with the late Don Whitney, then a long-time manager of the School of Business graduate services. 

“Don was such a great, calming presence,” she said. “He introduced me to the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, and in my first class I knew it was where I belonged. He helped me change my major and the trajectory of my life.” 

Howisey graduated in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in Society, Ethics & Human Behavior and a minor in Human Rights. 

Recognition returned

After having such a great experience at UW Bothell, Howisey was eager to get involved as an alumnus. She jumped at the chance when then Chancellor Warren Buck invited her and several others to create an alumni council. “It was a great way to stay connected and to share the amazing experience I had at UW Bothell with others,” she said. 

The council was founded in 2004. Four years later, members were asked if they would be willing to manage the Distinguished Alumni Award program. 

Now closely connected to the award for more than a decade, Howisey still remembers giving her first Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008 to Natalie Yang, a 1997 graduate in Liberal Studies. 

“I have nominated people, reviewed others’ nominations and even presented the award,” Howisey said. “But I never expected to be on the other side of the process. It is such an honor I don’t even know how to say thank you for that.” 

Curtis Takahashi, awards and recognition chair for the council, is also receiving the award this year. 

Shared service

Since 2017, Howisey has led the Alumni Council’s annual Husky 5K as fundraising and events chair. She has volunteered for the event for each of its 16 years, helping to secure sponsors, rallying people to participate and managing race-day logistics. 

She learned of her award in the midst of planning this year’s virtual event. 

“I received a text from Curtis Takahashi, our awards and recognition chair and my dear friend,” said Howisey. “He told me to check my email, and I panicked, thinking something was wrong. Instead, I learned that the two of us were receiving the award for 2021. We talked on the phone later that night and were just so emotional. I couldn’t be more proud to share this with him. 

“The award means so much,” she said. “I never expected it, but it’s so nice to know that doing what I love is appreciated.”

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