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Hasta La Vista

Written by Mike Thee
May 3, 2011

Russ Lidman joined Seattle University 11 years ago as professor and director of the Institute of Public Service. Before that, he served on the faculty at The Evergreen State College, on Governor Gary Locke’s staff and as assistant commissioner for the State’s Employment Security Department. A few days before his April 29 farewell reception (at which he was pictured here with Fathers Stephen Sundborg, left, and Peter Ely, right), Lidman took time to answer some questions about his time at SU and what lies ahead for him. 

The Commons:  What is the biggest thing you’ll take away from your SU experience? 

Russ Lidman:  I wouldn’t have taken the job if teaching weren’t part of it, so I have to point in the direction of teaching.  Through teaching you have an impact on future generations. So what I’ll take away is the good feeling of seeing the “aha” moments and, through the students’ work, seeing the growth in their capacity to be public leaders.   

The Commons: What are your fondest or most notable memories?   

RL:  My fondest memories all have to do with people, and with faith. I have met so many wonderful, loving people here. I hesitate to start naming them because I will leave so many out.  Here are a quick seven in no particular order—Kasa Tupua Pierson, Joe Orlando, Valerie Lesniak, Mike Bisesi, Noreen Elbert, Ted Fortier and Peter Ely. In terms of faith, thanks to Colleagues I have a sense of what Jesuit higher education is supposed to be about. One

   
A Young Russ Lidman: The pipe and V-neck seem to have foretold a career in academia, he says. 
especially notable memory—the Mass in honor of the El Salvador Martyrs. It is particularly affecting. What I really appreciate is how this event which focuses on the recent past is used to illuminate the present and, through the School of the Americas mobilization, to affect the future. 

The Commons:  What are you most proud of in terms of what you’ve accomplished here?  

 RL:  When I arrived here the MPA program was in decline. There were just over 70 students, and applications were thin. Now a decade later there are some 175 enrolled students and 225 on the books. Applications are strong. The public affairs undergrad program has gone from 6 to 50 majors. So, providing high-quality public service education to the next generation of public leaders—I feel pretty good about that. 

 The Commons:  If you could have one hope fulfilled for the institute in the years ahead, what would that be?

RL:  I would like the Institute of Public Service to be the place that public sector and nonprofit organizations first think of when they have a problem to solve, or have employees who need advanced training, or have openings for first-rate talent, whether as interns or employees. I would also like our grads to remain close to the program, both for what they can do for IPS as well as for what IPS can provide them. 

 The Commons: What’s next for Russ?  

RL:  I am a product of the 1960s. I am not a great planner. To use an image from the ’60s, I am just going to let it flow. I plan to be active in Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia and am in the rotation to become president this coming year. I tell folks that I have started to take golf lessons and they are either incredulous or just laugh at me. So I am not going to say anything about golf. I do hope to continue to do some teaching in Central or South America. If after a year or so I need a plan or I miss work, there will be time then to reboot. 

 The Commons:  Anything else you’d like to say to your colleagues and/or students? 

RL:  I have been lucky to have spent this portion of my career at Seattle University. Thanks to all of you who have made this such welcoming place. I didn’t think I would ever be saying this, having spent a decade more at Evergreen than I did at SU, but here at Seattle University I found my academic home. A last thought: You will be seeing me from time to time as (my wife) Raven is remaining on the law faculty. And I will want to take advantage of whatever comes with becoming a professor emeritus! So, it is not adios, rather hasta la vista.