Educator and alumnus donates $50K to Capital Campaign

by Frances Badgett

Dale Durrwachter (’62) is deeply grateful for the success he achieved in the field of education. The retired educator is particularly appreciative because when he was a child, an education was not guaranteed. 

“In 1945, my father moved us to rural Washington,” he said. “No road, no electricity, no running water, no phone—we lived an entirely subsistence existence. We had no money.”

Dale, his twin sisters, and his younger sister, worked the homestead, chopping wood, building structures, and gardening. When he was six years old, an aunt and uncle offered to drive him several hours to Olympia to attend pre-K each day. That strong early start set him up for a successful elementary school experience. 

“I went to Crescent Consolidated Elementary School in Joyce, Washington. It’s a K-12 school that still graduates fewer than 19 students each year,” Dale said.

Dale was a dedicated student, though he doesn’t consider himself extraordinary. Nevertheless, his teacher and her husband (the school principal) took an interest in him. They drove him 20 miles to their home to do chores around the house—during which time he would help with gardening, cleaning, and, painting. What was stunning to Dale is that they paid him.

“I had never known money before,” he said.

He began to keep a ledger which he has to this day. Every penny earned, every penny spent—an ice cream cone, a trip to the movies, a haircut. He also began his journey to higher education.

“I had decided I wanted to be a teacher and a principal, and I was not to be deterred,” Dale said.

When he graduated from Crescent Consolidated—a school he supports to this day—he chose Western for college. 

“It was the best college for teachers,” he said.

He stayed in a comfortable homestay near the library, which he described as “the key to all knowledge.” He loved his lodging, his proximity to downtown, where he dug oysters from the mudflats, and his studies. He particularly loved his professor, the legendary Charles Flora. 

“I had done well in genetics, and he wanted me to go into research, but I wanted to be a teacher,” said Dale.  

Dale paid for college by working in Olympic National Park each summer. He was a trail crew foreman for four years, making enough to pay for Western and to put his sisters through college. 

After graduation in 1962, he went to Alaska for a teaching job in an elementary school. His classes were informed by his humble roots. He taught hands-on projects in addition to classroom lessons. He taught his students how to build a greenhouse, staged an operetta, and built a masted ship in the gym. He was promoted to principal and worked in the same school until his retirement in 1988.

This year, Western launched a capital campaign to aid in the construction of a new interdisciplinary science building to be named Kaiser Borsari Hall. Dale generously gave $50,000 to the project.

“I absolutely relish the publications Western sends out,” said Dale. “I see the direction of the college, and that the attitude is ‘we’re good, but we can be better.’ I like to see Western’s goals for the future and the emphasis on STEM. The focus on women in STEM really struck me. The school has a bright future and is acknowledging that future in a big way.”

Reverence for science, a dedication to education, and a belief in progress inspire Dale to give so much to the school he loves. 

“Without Western, I don’t know where I’d be now. I wouldn’t have lived this long.”