Narver, Betty Jane (1934-2001)

  • By Alyssa Burrows
  • Posted 7/09/2003
  • Essay 7589
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Elizabeth (Logan) "Betty Jane" Narver was the Chair of the Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees and former director of the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, among numerous other community and civic posts.

From Boston Bay to Puget Sound

Betty Jane Logan was born in Boston on November 9, 1934, to Emily and Albert Victor Logan. Her father moved the family to Corvallis, Oregon, when he got a job as a chemistry professor at Oregon State University. Narver's mother, Emily Logan, helped found the League of Women Voters in Corvallis, and also unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Oregon's Legislature.

Narver earned an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Mills College in Oakland, California, in 1956, and received a master's degree in Chinese language and literature from the University of Washington in 1973. She married John Narver in 1960 (they divorced in 1981) and had two children, Greg and Allison. The family moved to Seattle in 1966.

Volunteer, Advocate, Consultant

Narver's interests lay in social and health services, state growth management, and fiscal policy. Some of her first civic work was the formation of the Coalition for Quality Integrated Education. She, with Seattle activist/philanthropist Kay Bullitt, formed this group during the desegregation of Seattle's public schools in the 1970s.

The University of Washington retained her as a consultant in 1976. Narver became the acting director of its Institute for Public Policy and Management, a research unit within the Graduate (later Daniel J. Evans) School of Public Affairs, in 1982, and served as the school's director from 1986 until her retirement in 2000.

Betty Narver was widely respected as a public-policy expert whose intelligence, knowledge, and personal warmth enabled her to create and broker relationships between opposing political forces. Her clear views, research background, and service for so many civic causes put her in the forefront of many policy debates in Seattle.

Narver's legacy includes national and statewide reform efforts, including welfare reform, health care, juvenile justice, and economic development. She is responsible for writing new legislation to finance K-12 public schools statewide, to help rescue the Seattle School District after a series of bond and levy election setbacks, and to reform the management of the Seattle Public Library. Narver was also well known for her cooking, dinner parties, and for her hospitality in hosting numerous people going through difficult times at her Capitol Hill home.

An Active "Retirement"

Although she had retired from the Evans School for Public Affairs in 2000, she remained a senior research fellow. The focus of her activities during the 1990s was funding for the Seattle Public Library System. She led efforts to pass the $198 million "Libraries for All" bond measure in 1998 and strongly backed the selection of architect Rem Koolhaas to design the new Central Branch of the Seattle Central Library.

Her death on December 9, 2001, after suffering a stroke at the age of 67 was sudden and unexpected. Hubert Locke, her friend and colleague at the UW, said, "She will be remembered, I think most of all, for her ability in Seattle to bring people together -- usually across the table in her kitchen -- to plan new initiatives, to broker arrangements between the university and the community, to tackle some issue of state policy and try to find new ways of approaching it" (Schubert).

Betty Jane Narver's numerous public posts and honors included:

State and Local Boards:

  • Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees (chair)
  • Seattle Public Library Foundation (founding board member)
  • Washington State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board
  • Governor's School-to-Work Transition Task Force (Chair)
  • Washington State Temporary Committee on Education Policy, Structure and Management
  • Group Health Foundation (Chair)
  • Seattle King-County Municipal League (President)
  • Education Working Committee of the Washington Roundtable

National Organizations:

  • National Civic League
  • Cross-City Campaign for Urban School Reform Board
  • National Urban Libraries Council (Chair)
  • National Governor's Association's State Workforce Investment Board Chairs' Association (Chair)


  • 1991 Outstanding Public Service Award from the University of Washington
  • 2000 The Museum of History and Industry Historymaker Award for community service

Sources: Ruth Schubert, "Civic Activist Dies After Stroke," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 11, 2001 (; Kimberly B. Marlowe, "Betty Jane Narver, 67, Dies," The Seattle Times, December 11, 2001, (; "Betty Jane Narver, November 9, 1934-Dec. 9 2001," The Evans School of Public Affairs website accessed on July 8, 2003 (; John N. Berry III, "The Ideal Trustee is Gone," Library Journal Editorial, January 15, 2002, from the Library Journal website, accessed July 8, 2003 (; "Betty Jane Narver," Editorial, The Seattle Times, December 11, 2001, (

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