For invaluable counsel, generative thinking, inspired action, and scholarship contributed to Centrum since its founding, it is our honor—on behalf of the Centrum Board of Directors—to present the 2019 Centrum Champion award to Bill Ransom.
On the plaque created for this award, we describe Bill as a Visionary, Trailblazer, Educator and Litterateur, and after we’ve told you his story, you’ll understand why.
Bill was born in Puyallup in 1945, was an agricultural worker by age eleven; attended Washington State University and University of Puget Sound on track and boxing scholarships; secured his undergraduate degree from UW and master’s degree in the Theory and Practice of Writing and Folklore from Utah State University; he built and repaired commercial jet engines; fought fires and taught CPR; and volunteered with humanitarian groups in Central America, where he managed a bit of covert activity (his exploits informed the movie “Under Fire” starring Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman, and Joanna Cassidy). He is a man of many interests and talents.
In 1972, Joe Wheeler (the founder of Centrum and after whom our theater is named), got hold of Bill and infected him with “Fort Worden fever.” Joe was Director of Cultural Arts for the Tacoma School District, and Bill was one of his Artists-in-Residence. Joe was beginning his campaign to turn Fort Worden into a center for arts and creativity and recruited Bill to serve, alongside Donn Tretheway, as a Poet in the Schools for our local School District.
It worked. The next year, Joe incorporated Centrum, and Bill launched the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference and Centrum’s interdisciplinary arts programs for middle school youth. Bill pioneered a Poets in the Schools program throughout Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada, and served as Dean of Curriculum at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. He found time to write six novels (three of them co-authored with Frank Herbert), four poetry collections, and two hybrid collections, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
We can’t imagine a more deserving champion. Thank you, Bill, for everything you have done– and will continue to do– for Centrum and for the thousands of people who have been touched by your work. You have changed our world, and we are grateful.