After graduating from Washington State University in 1989, Lorie Dankers headed for the other Washington–the one on the East Coast-with no job in sight. Her first Saturday there she attended a WSU alumni event. Mingling with other Cougars provided “wonderful contacts – names of people and companies to call.” She quickly found work. As a producer for Newslink, a Washington, D.C.-based television news bureau, she attended press conferences and congressional hearings and covered White House events, marches, and protests. There were tougher assignments to tackle as well-the U.S. decision to invade Panama, Mayor Marion Barry’s arrest on drug charges, and the Supreme Court’s addressing of “right to die” issues. She also reported on the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations.
The broadcast communication major had been a top student in the Honors Program and Phi Beta Kappa. Her training in the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication was valuable. However, she said she was unprepared for the “pace and level of discussion about issues, ideas, and politics” she initially encountered in the capitol. The learning curve was steep.
“I don’t think you ever fully grasp everything that is going on around you, but you begin to understand the players, the processes, and what the intended outcome is.”
Later, as a TV producer for the Senate Republican Conference, she helped senators tell their story. She found them to be dedicated public servants. Her final seven years in Washington, D.C. were spent working in public affairs for the U.S. secretary of transportation.
As alumni director for the Greater Washington, D.C. district, 1992-1998, she rallied Capitol City Cougars to travel to WSU football games in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Knoxville, Ann Arbor, and Columbus. She arranged a walking tour for alumni of historic Annapolis, hosted a spring gathering of alums at the National Arboretum, and arranged a visit to the Hillwood Museum, former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal empire. These activities were opportunities to bring Cougars together in their adopted hometown. “Christmas in April” also proved popular among alumni. Each April for four years, 15 to 20 alumni teamed with local Gettysburg College grads to refurbish and renovate a house in an impoverished neighborhood in the nation’s capital.
“At the end of the day, we had a true sense of satisfaction,” she says.
As 2003-04 president of the WSU Alumni Association, she’s been busy.
Last October she returned to Pullman to represent the Alumni Association at a regents meeting, attend an event hosted by the WSU Libraries Council, and sit for an interview with Washington State Magazine.
She shares that she and her husband, Jeff Johnson (’87 Comm.), and daughter, Bridget, now nearly 4, moved to Bellevue in 1999. “We enjoyed our time in Washington, D.C., but our heart was always in the Pacific Northwest,” she says. She’s employed in the Seattle office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Dankers grew up in the Poulsbo area, but chose WSU over the University of Washington, her father and brother’s alma mater. She played piccolo in the WSU Marching Band, completed a summer internship with the WSU Foundation, was a peer adviser for 10 freshmen in the communication department, and gave campus tours to prospective students, their parents, and visitors. In 1989, she drove ABC sportscaster and 1954 alumnus Keith Jackson, his wife, Turi, and his mother-in-law around campus in her Celica.
“I was so honored to show him firsthand what was happening in the school of communication and to use him as a role model,” she says, her eyes widening. When she purchased a ceramic floor tile with her name on it in support of the Lewis Alumni Centre remodeling project, she was given the choice of where she wanted it placed in the building. Next to Jackson’s would be fine, she said. The tiles are set side by side in the west entryway.
As Alumni Association president, she is committed to enhancing current alumni programs, expanding membership, and facilitating additional opportunities for alumni to engage in meaningful activities in support of WSU.
“We will continue the good work underway, including sponsorship of alumni events nationwide, hosting reunions, awarding scholarships, and providing service to the University community. We also will begin to expand our programs and serve as a catalyst for alumni involvement,” she says.
“The alumni agenda is ambitious, but achievable. It will take hard work, alumni participation and time. I look forward to the challenge.”