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Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Endowment helps with $540,000 makeover of UW president's home

Seattle Times staff reporter

Last week, University of Washington President Mark Emmert and his family moved into their new home after it had undergone $540,000 in renovations that included carving a new master suite out of two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

To help pay for the work on the president's mansion, the university's Board of Regents tapped $370,000 from the Walker-Ames Fund, an endowment created for "scientific and educational purposes," according to the bequest. The rest of the tab was paid out of the university's building-renewal fund.

Maud Walker Ames and Edwin Ames set up the Walker-Ames Fund in a 1931 bequest and left the Hill-Crest house in Washington Park to the university for the president's residence.

The endowment gave the UW Board of Regents "large and wide discretion in the use of the income" in the agreement but also suggested ways to spend the money: professorships in science, art, technology and education; lectureships; visiting professorships.

In the past, the university's use of the Walker-Ames endowment for non-education expenses has drawn criticism. In 1993, the regents stopped using the fund to supplement the university president's income and other administration expenses.

The regents also were criticized in 1992 when they used $67,000 from the fund to buy and install carpet in the mansion. The rug was removed as part of the recent mansion renovation.

In the 2005 budget, the regents proposed spending about $341,000 of the Walker-Ames $826,568 budget on education, including lectures and academic initiatives. Close to half — $400,000, which includes the $370,000 for the remodel — will be spent on the president's mansion at 808 36th Ave. E.

In 2004, the regents spent $35,016 for maintenance and upkeep on the mansion from the Walker-Ames fund.

The rest of the budget, about $85,000, is devoted to discretionary funds for the household, the president's business expenses and non-state-funded travel.

In sum, the school expects to spend $826,568 from the Walker-Ames Fund, compared to $335,830 in 2004. The endowment principal is worth an estimated $20 million.

The chairman of the UW Board of Regents, Jeffrey Brotman, who said he hadn't looked at the endowment agreement in some time, added, "That's in part what the fund is designed to do, to preserve and maintain the house. The house has been sorely neglected over many, many years."

The three-story, 12,788-square-foot house overlooks Lake Washington on 1.37 acres in the Washington Park neighborhood. Built in 1906, it has a separate garage with its own carriage house, two staircases, an elevator, a pipe organ and about 35 total rooms. A sunroom was added in 1958. While the president and his family live in the house, it also serves as the site of many university functions for faculty, students and visitors.

"There's been no major modernization since the 1940s," said Jeraldine McCray, associate vice president for facilities services at the UW.

The large house is a mish-mash of technologies and eras. The windows are single-paned, and the kitchen, with its aging stainless-steel countertops and cabinets, is original to the house. Getting onto a third-floor deck requires climbing through a waist-high bedroom window.

The $370,000 from the Walker-Ames Fund paid created a master suite out of two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor. The money also was used to remove carpet from the first and second floors and refinish the wood floors underneath.

The Board of Regents was criticized in 1992 when it spent $67,000 — or $144 per square yard — of the Walker-Ames money for the same carpet. At the time, the university justified the cost by saying the custom-made wool carpeting would last 25 years.

"It was old, it was stained, it couldn't be cleaned any more," McCray said.

McCray said Lee Huntsman, the previous president, had suggested remodeling the master bedroom. The bathroom, shower, toilet, shoe racks and closet were all previously housed in one large room, creating humidity problems. The bathroom also had extra-high counters to accommodate a very tall previous UW president.

Work on the house paid for from the university's building-renewal funds included painting the exterior, converting the wood-burning fireplaces to natural gas, upgrading the gas line, replacing a deck and repairing the heating system.

The university originally started planning the renovation in October 2003 during its search for a new president.

Brotman hopes the UW will continue with major repairs to the house and has asked for a list of repairs, costs and priorities.

"I would hope that [the Walker-Ames Fund] would be a source of funds for this," he said.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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