Sometimes we are lucky enough to meet a person who not only has vision but also the ability to make the world a better place. Kate Webster was one of those people.
Kate Webster touched and transformed Washington. She was a leader at Seattle Children’s hospital and Washington State University. Kate served on the board of United Way of King County, the YMCA of Greater Seattle and Smith College. However at Seattle CityClub, we owe Kate our greatest appreciation for her contribution as a founding member.
Eight women tied together by the desire to contribute to the civic health of their community formed Seattle CityClub. Starting as an informal group who met weekly to discuss topics from politics to business development, they called themselves the “Old Girls”. After two years of meeting at almost every breakfast spot in town, the idea to form Seattle CityClub derived from their vision of an inclusive place to discuss citywide issues and share information, ideas, and opinions of how to make everyone’s voices heard. In the early days, Seattle CityClub focused on issues of economic development, energy forecasts, cultural events, and the fate of old growth forests. While some of the issues have evolved, our mission at Seattle CityClub to connect and engage the public to strengthen the civic health of the Puget Sound region has remained unchanged.
At the outset, the original eight lacked financial resources to grow their newly formed Club, but they made up for it with the vision and ambition to develop a supportive membership. Amongst a flurry of ideas and perspectives, Kate was a consolidator and arbitrator; she helped reach consensus and decisions of how to put plans in place to create action. Through her connections at Smith College, Kate was responsible for getting Barbara Bush to speak at one of Seattle CityClub’s events while it was still a volunteer-run organization. None of the founders imagined they would be welcoming the First Lady to speak at a Seattle CityClub event when they were planning the foundation of the Club from the kitchen of one of the Old Girls’.
Incredible experiences followed the high-profile visit, and were made possible by Kate. I recently had the opportunity to speak to two other founding members of Seattle CityClub to learn more about what Kate was like as a friend and co-founder. They both explained how Kate was not only a role model and mentor to them, but was also someone whom everyone enjoyed being around. Kate was an excellent listener and a trusted source of advice for both professional and personal matters. From yearly trips to calling before holidays and always making time for a lunch date, Kate transformed the Old Girls from a group of motivated women who wanted to have an impact in their community, into a close knit group of friends that still lives on today.
Kate drove Seattle CityClub onward and upward, tackling every obstacles that laid ahead. She had a keen ability to garner support and bring people together in a way that fostered lasting relationships and partnerships regardless of perspectives or opinions. Everyone who stepped into a Seattle CityClub event would be respected, a value that is still true today.
Even towards the end of her life, Kate continued to contribute to the current class of Seattle CityClubbers. Only a few weeks before she passed away, Kate gave Diane Douglas, Seattle CityClub’s current Executive Director, a call to explain that a friend was moving to Seattle and would benefit from the friendly welcome and orientation to civic life that Seattle CityClub provides. After reaching out, the friend joined us at a recent Civic Cocktail event and assured us that it would not be her last Seattle CityClub event.
Those who knew Kate will miss her as a mother, grandmother, dear friend, philanthropist, and visionary. Her accomplishments leave a long legacy that lives on today and continues to improve the lives of others. We at Seattle CityClub are eternally grateful to Kate, along with the original founders, for envisioning our nonprofit organization as a place of meaningful debate, collaboration, and conversation. In honor of Kate, we will continue to promote civic health for all those who call Seattle home.