Brewster C. Denny, the founder of what is now the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, one of the first independent public schools of public administration in the country, died Saturday (June 22) at the age of 88. He was a longtime Century Foundation Trustee and served as Board Chair from 1986-94.

Denny, the great-grandson of Arthur and Mary Denny, founders of Seattle and the UW, created the Graduate School of Public Affairs in 1962, where he served first as director and later as dean, a position he held until 1980. He continued to teach diplomatic history and American foreign policy at the school until 2004. He was named professor and dean emeritus in 1992.

His publications include Seeing American Foreign Policy Whole (1985), which has been republished in French, Chinese, Arabic and Spanish.

Denny’s public service positions included:

  • Naval service in World War II and the Korean War;

    Supervisory intelligence research analysis in the Department of Defense (1952 to 1960);


  • Professional staff member of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on National Policy Machinery (1960 to 1961);

  • Presidential member of the U.S. Puerto Rico Commission and member of the President's Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Personnel Policy;

  • Advisor to Secretary of Health and Human Services Patricia Roberts Harris on reorganization of that department;

  • Advisor during the national security transition between the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations;

  • U.S. representative to the General Assembly of the United Nations (1968);

  • Representative of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, advising on science policy in Thailand, Korea, the Philippines and Jordan.

“Brewster was a great educator, a great public servant who spent many wonderful years at the Defense Department in a tough situation when we were in Vietnam,” says Charles Bowsher, comptroller general of the United States from 1981 to 1996. “He was one of the best members of Education Advisory Panel at the General Accounting Office. I have the greatest respect for him, what he did for the country, and what he did for the GAO personally.”

In the founding documents of the Evans School, Denny identified the purpose for offering degrees in public administration: “Improve the quality of the conduct of the public’s business by the preparation of mature, aware, committed, and intellectually well-equipped men and women for public service at all levels of government and by marshaling of the intellectual resources of the university to break new ground in the study of critical problems of public policy.”

“Brewster Denny established the Evans School because he believed that a professional public service education should be accessible to all,” says Sandra Archibald, dean of the Evans School. “He has left a legacy that continues to shape public leadership in the nation and the world, a legacy that has resulted in thousands of alumni who lead in critical positions in public administration and policy.”

“There are few individuals that are as fortunate as I am to have gone to the Evans School when Brewster Denny took over to lead it to its heights,” said Norman B. Rice, former Seattle mayor. “His knowledge, context, and reach led to a wonderful graduate experience. I am fortunate to have known him, not only as a leader of the school, but as a friend and a counselor.”

“I was one of the first African American females recruited by Dean Denny to the Evans School, which had a huge impact on my life,” says Constance Rice. “He was especially interested in getting gender integration into the Evans School–I was part of the largest female cohort at the time, which was six. He was a visionary to see that the world would be 54% female in the future, and that so many women would go on to careers in public service.”

Denny served as a trustee since 1974 of the Twentieth Century Fund (now Century Foundation), a leading global policy think tank founded by Edward Filene, including serving as chairman from 1986 to 1994.  He also served as a member of the GAO Comptroller General's Research and Education Advisory Panel (1979 to 2001). He served as president of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration from 1968 to 1969. He also was a member of the National Academy of Public Administration and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Among his numerous honors, he received the Distinguished Citizen Award of the National Municipal League, the Outstanding Public Service Award of the University of Washington Alumni Association, the Distinguished Service Award of the Seattle Federal Executive Board, and the Outstanding Advocate for Children award from the Children’s Alliance.

Denny also served as longtime co-chair of the Children's Budget Coalition, created in 1991 to increase support for children's programs and education in the state of Washington. He served as chair of a task force appointed by Gov. Dan Evans on executive education. In the Seattle area, he served as chairman of the Metropolitan Study Commission, the Mayor's Charter Amendment Advisory Committee, as a member of the board and senior vice president of the Seattle Opera Association and the board of the Historic Seattle Preservation Authority and the Seattle Historical Society, among many others.

Denny received a bachelor’s degree from the UW in 1945 and a master’s (1948) and doctorate (1959) from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Harvard and Tufts.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia, daughter, Maria Denny, son-in-law Jim Kodjababian, and grandchildren Ella and Jacob.

The family suggests memorial contributions should be made to the Brewster C. Denny Fellowship at the Evans School of Public Affairs, or to the Children's Alliance.

A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at Epiphany Church in Seattle at 3 p.m. Tuesday, July 9.