Former Washington State University regent Frances Penrose Owen died March 9, 2002 in Seattle. She was 102.
Governor Albert Rosellini appointed WSU’s first woman regent to the board in 1957. She served for 18 years and was twice elected president. In 1979, WSU’s new science and engineering library was named in her honor.
Eleven years later, when Mrs. Owen was presented with the Medal of Merit, the state’s highest award, WSU president emeritus Glenn Terrell said, “Frances is a rare combination of strength, gentleness, intelligence, and forcefulness.”
Mrs. Owen’s life was filled with service. She was elected to the Seattle School Board in 1945 and served until 1967. During her 22-year tenure, she was president four times. The Frances Penrose Auditorium at Seattle School Board headquarters was named for her in 1989. She also was on the board of Children’s Hospital in Seattle for 36 years, where she served as trustee president and chair of the building committee.
The Walla Walla native was a magna cum laude graduate of Whitman College, where her father, Stephen B. L. Penrose, was president for 40 years. She held a master’s degree in education from Harvard. After working for Frederick & Nelson department store in Seattle for a decade, she retired as personnel manager and married Henry B. Owen.