William Rieke
William Rieke

Obituary of William O. Rieke

Pacific Lutheran University President Emeritus Dr. William O. Rieke, 74, passed away on April 22, 2006 after a courageous battle with cancer. Dr. Rieke was born in Odessa, and raised in Cashmere, Washington. He graduated summa cum laude from Pacific Lutheran College (PLU) in 1953. In 1958, Dr. Rieke completed his M.D. degree from the University of Washington’ s School of Medicine, graduating with honors as the top student in his class. In later years, Dr. Rieke was honored as a distinguished Alumnus by both PLU and the U.W. Medical School. Upon graduation from his medical degree program, Dr. Rieke joined the U.W. School of Medicine’s faculty as an instructor and researcher, advancing many understandings in the emerging field of cancer research. In 1963, 1664, and 1965, he was chosen by the graduating classes to receive the “Medical Teachers Honors” award. In 1966, Dr. Rieke became a Professor and Chair of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Iowa, College of Medicine. Dr. Rieke built the program into the most rigorous and popular science department. He became Dean of the University’s School Medicine in 1969 and served in that capacity until accepting the appointment to become Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs and Director of the University of Kansas Medical Center in 1971. During his tenure there, Dr. Rieke oversaw the design and construction a new medical school and teaching hospital campus at the University of Kansas, Kansas City, and established a new medical school in Wichita, for the sake of strengthening medical practice and availability in the state’s rural western regions. At this time, he became a Fellow in the American College of Physicians. In 1975, Dr. Rieke chose to leave his career in the administration of medical science, to become President of Pacific Lutheran University. While president of Pacific Lutheran University, Dr. Rieke enabled PLU to gain national and international prestige through its professional schools and its strong liberal arts program. An Exxon Educational Fund survey in 1986 named him among the top 5 percent of effective college and university presidents in the United States. His efforts in strengthening international ties led to his being named Knight First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit by King Olav V in 1989. In 1985, when the new Science center at PLU was dedicated, the university’s Board of Regents honored Dr. Rieke by naming the new facility the William O. Rieke Science Center. Upon retiring from PLU, Dr. Rieke accepted a position as Executive Director with the Ben B. Cheney Foundation, where he served for 10 years. During his lifetime, Dr. Rieke received many awards and served as an officer for numerous professional, civic, and religious organizations. He served on the Accreditation Board for the AMA and was Chairman of the Northwest Accreditation Board for Colleges and Universities. Dr. Rieke is survived by Joanne, his wife of 52 years; three children, Susan (Rieke) Smith and her husband Jeffry Smith; Stephen Rieke and his wife Eileen Rieke; Marcus Rieke and his wife Paula Rieke; and eight grandchildren. A Pacific Lutheran University remembrance of Dr. Rieke and a celebration of his life is scheduled: Friday, April 28th, 10:30 a.m., in Lagerquist Concert Hall at Pacific Lutheran University. Dr. Rieke’s funeral is scheduled for 1:30 PM Saturday, April 29th, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 8602 Bridgeport Way SW, 253-588-2886. Arrangements are by Edwards Memorial Center, 253-566-1008.
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