In Memoriam: Walt Zabriskie

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Walt was born on February 27, 1950, in Albuquerque, NM. He was the youngest child of Jesse and Nell Zabriskie. Walt was a proud Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in Economics. He later earned his MBA from the Albers School of Business at Seattle University where he was the distinguished scholar in his class. Walt served as CFO at a number of companies, which lead to his CEO position at Titus US for 20 years. He finished his career as a partner at Next Level Consulting.

Walt was happiest when he was giving to others, whether it be family, friends, or his community. As a member of the Visiting Committee at the University of Washington, Department of Economics, he developed a mentorship program, which continues today. Walt was also a proud member of Christ Our Hope parish. During the past five years, he received some of his greatest satisfaction and personal rewards serving on the board as Treasurer of Amara, a not-for-profit that serves children in foster care.

In 2010, it was Walt who had the idea to start a mentorship program, after hearing the Economics Undergraduate Board’s presentation to the Visiting Committee, in which students requested more alumni involvement. Walt was the one who did the leg work in setting up the program so that there would be no question as to the structure and goal of the program.  The mentorship program has become one of the best means for the department to connect with both recent and longtime alumni, and has allowed those who would not otherwise be involved to reconnect with the department and give back to the community. This vibrant program has provided mentors with a platform to give back in a very impactful way by passing on their knowledge to students who can then use their mentor’s experiences to shape their own career path.

Walt was an alumni who truly believed and practiced the basic tenets of economics that he learned at the University of Washington. When forming the mentorship program, he insisted that all economics alumni be invited to participate as mentors, rather than limiting members to those in certain types of industry. He based this belief on the idea that every alumni had something to offer, regardless of where their career path had led them.

Walt’s impact on the department can be shown in how he is remembered by his fellow alumni, Visiting Committee member, and member of the mentorship program, Olga Yang. “I go back to early economics education where it is taught that people pay more dollars for a perceived desirable good, such as diamonds, which cost dearly in monetary terms. Consequently, items that are not that quite desirable, such as bread, costs less in monetary terms. Even so, "free" commodities that have no discernable monetary value appear to be less desirable or less valuable.  I respectfully submit that Walt Zabriskie, as said before, who enjoyed himself ever more while giving to others, always gave anyone free advice, but no one can say Walt's free advice held no monetary value. Despite the fact that Walt's advice was always free, it was always valuable, and indeed, a commodity in great demand. In this way, Walt does prove an exception to this theory.” – Olga Yang, ’82,

Walt was recognized by the department for his exceptional work as an economics alumni and Visiting committee member as the 2015 Kathy Gehrt Memorial Service Awardee (jointly with Gabe Hanzeli), and as our first Visiting Committee Member Emeritus in 2017.

Walt was a great family man, loving father, and devoted grandfather. His family and friends will always remember him as determined, kind, gracious, and generous.

Walt is survived by his wife of 45 years, Christine (Pugel); his daughter, Claire; and his son, Nicholas and his wife, Nicole; two granddaughters, Zoe and Campbell. He is also survived by his brother, Don Zabriskie; and his sister, Linda Gibbs, and Walt will be forever missed by his extended Pugel family.

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