Lifelong bonus from a model career woman

Barbara Krohn, publisher, Washington Education Directory - Photo by Mizu Sugimura. Copyright 2008
Barbara Krohn, publisher, Washington Education Directory
— image credit: Photo by Mizu Sugimura. Copyright 2008

By MIZU SUGIMURA, Community columnist

“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are to some extent a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece, by thought, choice and determination.” — John Luther

Her pioneering grandparents, former immigrants from Germany, began a homestead in Camas-Washougal prior to Washington statehood in 1889.

Her father was the first in his family to earn a college degree, graduating from the University of Washington in 1909. He would serve as a school superintendent in Clark County, passing away when she was only 16.

As the much beloved and only surviving child of three, Barbara Krohn recalls writing and publishing her own handwritten newspaper as a little girl.

With help from her widowed mother, she realized her own dream of attending her father’s alma mater in Seattle in the early 1940s, earning a bachelor’s degree in communications and master’s degree in history.

By the late 1940s, she was editor of a weekly newspaper. In the mid-1950s to mid-1970s, she was director of commun-ications and magazine editor of a statewide educational organization now based in Federal Way.

Following this stint, she was the first woman appointed publisher of student publications at UW and founded her own firm. Since then, educators in Federal Way and elsewhere recognize Barbara Krohn and Associates with the annual publication of the Washington Education Directory for 35 years in a row.

In a recent phone interview, longtime friend, business associate and fellow UW graduate Nedra Slauson recalls that in the mind of her peers that Krohn “was the model of a successful career woman.”

Another associate, Jeff Christensen, said: “One of Barbara’s proudest accomplishments was her tenure as a career advisor for communications students at the University of Washington and the staff of its newspaper, The Daily. Time and time again, she has pointed out to me an editorial cartoon, article or essay written by a Daily alumni. Conversely, I know that she is frequently cited by the same individuals for the role she played in their development, having made a lasting impact on them as artists of writers, not to mention as people.”

As a result of a student internship in spring 1977, I’m another lucky beneficiary. Luck was also involved on account of a thoughtless remark by myself, which easily may have jettisoned what opportunity I had despite arrangements made by UW School of Communications Professor Roger A. Simpson.

According to plans, I was to rendezvous with Krohn at her downtown offices in the historic Securities Building, as Simpson had a conflict that day. For whatever reason, she was delayed. Enough time elapsed, cooling my heels in front of a locked wooden door by a non-descript bank of elevator doors that I briefly contemplated calling it quits and going home after leaving a short note.

About then, she turned up. After a short introduction, she suggested we continue our discussion inside. She unlocked the door and steered me to a cozy but poorly ventilated suite of offices where I took in my first view.

Every available flat surface was utilized to hold an assortment of books, magazines, files and whatever objects could be safely stacked including art prints, coffee mugs and ceramic knickknacks with an ethnic flair. A third of the good-sized couch opposite her desk was even appropriated for two smaller piles.

I was under the false delusion public relations offices were uncluttered and spacious compartments designed for corporate types. I carelessly let drop an off-hand remark that the environment in front of me was somewhat incongruent with my prior expectations.

Krohn immediately requested in a pointed tone of voice that I clarify exactly what I believed offices of a public relations firm looked like. Fortunately for me, my mother — herself a college graduate and longtime proponent of more diplomatic communication styles — came to mind. So inspired, I backpedaled as best as I could in the direction of firmer ground.

However, it was up to Krohn whether to graciously extend the invitation to intern with her for the duration of the school quarter. I’m happy to say she did. Eventually we even became friends. Not a result of my maturity or acumen, but based on mutual interest in the arts, humanities and shared curiosity about the impacts of family history.

In this manner Krohn, a descendant of German and Swedish stock, occupies a special place in my heart and is an indivisible member of my closest extended Japanese-American family.

Federal Way resident Mizu Sugimura can be reached at: mizu.s@comcast.net.

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