Lawless served more than 30 years on the Western University of Health Sciences Board of Trustees, taking the helm as chairman a scant 10 months after the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific’s inaugural class had graduated. He served as chairman until 2013, when he took on the title of Chairman Emeritus.
His background as a private businessman and as an advocate for education and osteopathic medicine – he served in several capacities for the Washington Osteopathic Medical Association (WOMA), including as its executive director and chief lobbyist – made him a perfect fit to lead the Board, said WesternU Founding President Philip Pumerantz, PhD. Lawless was the living bridge that connected pragmatic, growth-oriented business tactics with idealistic vision and enthusiasm.
“Indeed, much of what WesternU is today is the direct result not only of his business sense, but his passion for humanism and education,” Pumerantz said. “Warren had a staunch belief in the high quality of our students, faculty, and staff; a deep commitment to building and maintaining resources to match their talents and WesternU’s mission serving its communities; and an unwavering philosophy that anything was possible if we simply believed it could happen, and put the best of our hearts and minds into it.
“Those who knew and worked with Warren, and even those who only briefly met him, were always impressed by how positive and enthusiastic he was about WesternU, and about what an accomplishment he believed the University to be.”
Lawless.mp4 Edwin Warren Lawless was born in Seattle, Washington on June 7, 1918. He was a veteran of World War II, serving as an electrician’s mate in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater. After returning from military service, he studied business and the humanities at the University of Washington while working as a journeyman typographer for the West Seattle Herald. He rose steadily through the newspaper’s ranks, eventually becoming manager of retail advertising sales before leaving to start his own printing and management company in the late 1960s, which he operated until his retirement in 1988.
Lawless was also deeply involved in community service, as part of the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce but most notably as a member of the Kiwanis Club of West Seattle, where he held several positions, including president and secretary. He earned the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce 110% Award in 1983, was named West Seattle Kiwanian of the Year twice (1979 and 1990), and earned Pacific Northwest District Kiwanis Distinguished Secretary honors four straight years (1992-95).
“He was a moving force for the last 60 years in West Seattle,” said Denis Sapiro, a member of the Kiwanis Club of West Seattle Board of Directors. Sapiro moved to Seattle in 1978, and Lawless welcomed him to the community, befriended him and recruited him into Kiwanis.
“He helped me when I was changing jobs or looking for a promotion,” Sapiro said. “He was a mentor, someone that I could turn to for advice, whether it was good business advice or fatherly advice.”
Lawless was active in the West Seattle Hi-Yu Summer Festival and he helped start a group that bought up land and provided parking for the merchants in the West Seattle Junction.
“Warren always made everything fun,” Sapiro said. “No matter how serious or difficult the situation was, he would remind us what we were working for, which was to help the community.”
Lawless’ wife, Elizabeth (Betty) passed away several years ago; he is survived by two sons, John and Michael, in addition to several other family members.
“He was a very honest person and a very honest businessman,” he said. “He got most of his business because people believed he was going to do the right thing. He was very well respected.”
Warren Lawless was dedicated to his work, not even taking holidays off. John said he and his brother Michael would find their father in his office, working on Christmas, and bring him home.
“He just wanted to work,” John Lawless said. “He enjoyed working with COMP and Kiwanis, volunteering, giving awards out, going to meetings. That’s what he enjoyed doing. That was his life. He was just a good father and a good husband and he just did everything the right way. ”
Lawless received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from COMP in 1980, and in 1997 received the University’s Humanism in Medicine Award. WesternU held a “family reunion” of Lawless relatives during COMP-Northwest’s Convocation weekend in Lebanon, Ore. in August 2013, bringing together his blood relatives and members of his WesternU family to share memories. The Board and Dr. Pumerantz presented Lawless with a proclamation honoring him as a “friend for life.”
The Board proclaimed Aug. 3 and Aug. 10, 2013 as “Warren Lawless Days” on the campuses of Western University of Health Sciences.
“As all of us move forward following this loss, I am confident we will keep within us the passion, positivity and perseverance that are Warren Lawless’ legacy at Western University of Health Sciences and in the lives of all those he encountered,” Pumerantz said.