End of a Wonderful Era: WGU Washington’s Founding Chancellor Retires

Jean Floten The start of February means the end of a wonderful era at WGU Washington: the university’s founding chancellor, Jean Floten, has retired.

Jean’s last day at the online, nonprofit university was January 31 — drawing to a close her 45-year career in higher education, including the last five-plus years at WGU Washington.

As chancellor, Jean guided WGU Washington to significant success. Under her leadership, the university’s enrollment has grown to more than 10,000 students statewide – an increase of over 1,100 percent since 2011. Additionally, the university has awarded more than 7,500 bachelor’s and master’s degrees to graduates statewide.

“Few educators have impacted the lives of so many students and graduates across our state,” said Sam Smith, a founding director of WGU and President Emeritus of Washington State University. “Chancellor Floten leaves behind a truly exceptional legacy. Because of her, WGU Washington is positioned to grow and strengthen its place as a valuable member of Washington’s higher education family.”

During Jean’s tenure as chancellor, Jean was named one of Seattle’s “Most Influential People” by Seattle Magazine. WGU Washington received formal recognition from Gov. Inslee, as well as the state Senate, for its role in providing a high-quality and career-focused educational option to Washington residents. Furthermore, the Association of Washington Business named the university among the top three organizations providing high-caliber education and workforce development systems aligned with closing the employment gap.

In appreciation of her dedication and contribution to WGU Washington, the university has awarded Jean the title of Chancellor Emeritus. That status allows her to continue to advocate on behalf of the university. “It is a marvelous honor to be recognized by the university as Chancellor Emeritus,” said Floten. “I’ve treasured my time there and will always be a strong proponent of WGU and its pioneering model.”

Floten joined WGU Washington after serving as president at Bellevue College for more than 22 years, steering its transition from Bellevue Community College into an innovative, nationally acclaimed institution. Prior to that, Floten was Executive Vice President at Edmonds Community College.

She’s touched so many lives over the years — including many among the staff and faculty of WGU. Some of those men and women who worked with Jean during her time as chancellor share their retirement well-wishes below:

After meeting you at Bellevue College and knowing the great strides that you made there, I was thrilled to find you at WGU. Thank you so much for your insight, adventuresome spirit, and for being such a great leader!
Sandy Kangas, WGU Course Mentor

I really enjoyed hearing you speak and feeling the genuine love and concern you have for students. We were blessed to have you as our leader. I wish you all good things as you open this next chapter. Best wishes!
Maria Schenk, WGU Course Mentor

I am so sad to hear this news, but at the same time, so incredibly happy for you! You have worked so hard and deserve retirement. I have truly enjoyed working with you, especially watching WGU Washington grow and thrive under your leadership these last five years. You will be sorely missed! All my best!
Connie Ozmer, WGU Course Mentor

Wishing you fair winds and following seas for this next journey of yours. You have touched so many and made the world a better place. I’m hoping you’ll be showered with abundant opportunities to do whatever your heart desires. Happy retirement!
Lynn Brogan, WGU Course Mentor

Jean Floten Who is the warmest, friendliest, and smartest lady in charge of WGU Washington? That's right! It is you! How are we ever going to replace this class-A character? At first I was just sad, but it's turning into a panic. Jean, you will be dearly missed.
Jane Whitmire, WGU Course Mentor

Thank you for your leadership and best wishes in your future endeavors!
Angela Pawlak, WGU Student Mentor

Jean, you have made WGU Washington thrive and grow in your tenure. The spirit of innovation that you inspire in your leadership and the care for students and WGU Washington employees have nurtured WGU Washington from a signature on legislation to 10,000 students. What remarkable stewardship! It has been a privilege to work with you. Enjoy writing your next chapter!
Emily Morishima, WGU Trainer

From the moment I started here, I felt like part of a family. Thank you for reaching out and making a job – that could have felt isolating – feel so connected. My kids treasure memories of the owls and Blue Angels. I treasure your guidance, leadership, and friendship. Thank you for being the exemplar of what a leader should be. Best wishes in your future projects and, hopefully, your fun adventures too!
Karen Landon, Program Manager

Jean, thanks so much for your hard work for WGU Washington! You were instrumental in driving Washington to the top spot in the number of enrolled students across the country. Thousands of Washington students graduated and went on to become teachers, nurses, IT and business professionals under your watch. You will be sorely missed.
Eric Lagally, WGU Program Manager

Best of luck to you in your future endeavors. Thank you for helping to make WGU Washington so fantastic!
Dianne Atkinson, WGU Student Mentor

Jean, WGU Washington, our students and our staff had the first and best game-changing years under your leadership. Happy retirement and may many, more great adventures find you!
Xavier Hermosillo, WGU Program Manager

You were the best choice for the first WGU Washington Chancellor because of your friendliness, tenacity, and professionalism. We really appreciate the way you made connections with students, staff, faculty, business leaders, and politicians. It is apparent that WGU holds a special place in your heart. Due to the foundation you laid for WGU Washington, we are well-prepared for the future. On a personal note, thank you for your friendship, advice, and providing us unique opportunities. We will miss you.
Anne Price, Manager, Evaluation Faculty
Joe St. John, Senior Manager

Jean, I will miss your wholesomeness and smiles – but your next journey of life is a blessing. You will be missed!
Ginny Wallace, WGU Student Mentor

Best wishes for a very happy retirement, Jean. Thank you for everything you've done for me directly and indirectly. Your guidance and encouragement have helped me – and so many others! – grow and thrive professionally. You will certainly be missed, but I wish you all the best going forward.
Jake Riddell, WGU Washington Senior Public Relations Manager

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