Washoe’s Day of Honor in Olympia

On Friday February 22, 2008 Mary Lee Jensvold, Deborah and Roger Fouts went to Olympia, Washington, our beautiful state capitol where the State Legislature would vote on a resolution to honor Washoe and recognize the work of the Fouts. Joining us was CWU’s new provost, Dr. Wayne Quirk, and the new Interim Dean of the College of the Sciences, Dr. Martha Kurtz as well as Laurie Pond, one of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) first volunteers. Ann Anderson, CWU’s Director of Governmental Affairs guided us through the day accompanied by Jake Stillwell, Washington State Student Lobbyist representing CWU and Marshall Shefler, another CWU student serving as a Government Relations Intern.

The capitol building is beautiful. The dome is reminiscent of our nation’s capitol and the interior is all marble. Right inside the entrance and at the bottom of a grand staircase leading to the rotunda was a display including a beautiful photograph of Washoe and a description of the project and the work of the Fouts and CHCI. To set the perfect tone there was a string orchestra from the Walla Walla Valley Academy playing music that was acoustically perfect. Sitting along the steps schoolchildren ate their lunches and looked at the display. Even on this day, Washoe continued to carry her message of compassion and respect for our fellow beings.

As we absorbed all of this, the Fouts were greeted by legislators, Rep. Judy Warnick, Rep. Janea Holmquist, Rep. Bill Hinkle, and Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson. We then proceeded up to the observation gallery above the floor from where the representatives govern our state. The resolution, which was sponsored by Rep. Judy Warnick with support from Bill Hinkle, honoring Washoe was read. Then Rep. Warnick and Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson each read tributes supporting the Washoe resolution. The house then unanimously passed the resolution. The Fouts were honored with warm applause from the Representatives. It was heartwarming to know that the Fouts’ decades of dedication to the chimpanzees, to Central Washington University, and its students were being recognized. The House Speaker and CWU alumni, Jeff Morris, described his experience as a freshman in 1982 taking classes in the psychology building. That building was the chimpanzees’ home from 1980-1993 and classrooms were above and below the chimpanzees’ floor. Classes in adjacent floors, like Speaker Morris’, paused when the sounds of the chimpanzees were louder than the lecturer. Speaker Morris described his experience, which brought smiles to the faces of the legislatures.

The Foutses were touched when Rep. Helen Sommers left the floor of the House of Representative to warmly greet them. Later in the afternoon the Fouts had opportunity to visit with Senator Marilyn Rasmussen. She was one of the key sponsors of the budget request in 1990 that secured the funds to build the CHCI building that was completed in 1992. Both Rep. Sommers and Senator Rasmussen were long time friends who were glad to see the Fouts in Olympia again. It was a heartfelt day and we were honored to be a part of it. We all miss Washoe dearly, but it gives us comfort to know she’s free and it humbles our soul to know even in death she is teaching us about our place in nature.

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From left to right: Rep. Jenea Holmquist, Roger Fouts, Rep. Judy Warnick, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, Rep. Bill Hinkle, Deborah Fouts

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From left to right: Roger Fouts, State Senator Marilyn Rasmussen, and Deborah Fouts.

 

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From left to right: Jake Stillwell, Marshall Shefler, Ann Anderson, Roger Fouts, Marilyn Rasmussen, Deborah Fouts, Laurie Pond, Martha Kurtz, Mary Lee Jensvold, and Wayne Quirk

 

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