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Remembering Lou Pepper

Longtime staff member Allison Parker reflects on the community legacy of Lou Pepper, former Washington Mutual CEO and Seattle Foundation philanthropist, who passed away last Friday at age 92.


December 29, 2016

By Allison Parker, Director, Philanthropic Partnerships

 My first encounter with Lou Pepper was a whirlwind! It was 2008, Washington Mutual had just collapsed and he, his wife Mollie, and several of their good friends -- who were also former Washington Mutual execs -- were absolutely sick about what this meant for the employees they'd known all those years. What would happen to the employees' retirement? What about their kids? What about their college savings? Lou Pepper immediately picked up the phone and called his friends at Seattle Foundation.

At a time when people were facing economic hardship and hopelessness, Lou and his group of "Rodeo Grandmas" wanted to do something immediately for their former colleagues, who they considered family. We quickly put together a plan of action, including support for their fundraising efforts and the establishment of two funds to best address the employees' needs. The Washington Mutual Alumni Scholarship helped displaced employees retrain for new jobs and assisted their dependents with college expenses. The employee assistance fund, administrated in partnership with Wellspring Family Services, helped with basic necessities, such as utilities bills, first month's rent, etc.

To date, these funds have awarded more than $1.1 million in scholarships and assistance grants. Over the years, I've heard from several recipients of these awards who have expressed gratitude to the alumni group and specifically to Lou Pepper for his vision. The last group of scholarship recipients are still attending school.

I always knew who Lou and Mollie were because of their long-standing relationship with Seattle Foundation. However, it wasn’t until we worked on this project together that I knew the extent of his huge heart. I keep very few books on my desk. One of the books is Lessons from Lou by Lou Pepper. It is dog-eared and I have been known to read aloud from it to my colleagues. As Lou says in his book, "You will ultimately not be judged by how fast you traveled or how far you have come, but by what you did along the way and how you left the people you passed."

Read more about Lou Pepper at Seattle Times. To learn about engaging in philanthropy with Seattle Foundation, read about lifetime philanthropy and legacy philanthropy.

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