Honored for five decades of outstanding service, teaching and research at Washington State University, Ken Casavant, Emeritus Professor in WSU’s School of Economic Sciences, received the university’s Alumni Achievement Award at a reception, presentation and reunion, May 23, 2019, at the Lewis Alumni Center on the Pullman campus.
The Alumni Achievement Award is the highest award that the WSU Alumni Association bestows, honoring graduates who make important contributions to academics, industry, and society. Only 538 alumni have received the award.
“Tonight, we are going to present the 539th to Ken Casavant,” said Tim Pavish, Executive Director of the WSU Alumni Association.
Receiving his doctorate in agricultural economics here in 1971, Casavant has studied and worked at WSU for 50 years. An agricultural economist and longtime Faculty Athletics Representative, and deeply involved in service to his community and profession, Casavant was co‑developer and director of the WSU Freight Policy Transportation Institute with associate professor Eric Jessup, and a member of the Northwest Power Planning Council. He retired in 2018.
Winning many local, state and national awards for his teaching, and mentoring many students and faculty members, Casavant researched how policy affects people and the movement of goods that power our economy.
As Faculty Athletic Representative from 1999 to 2017, Casavant represented WSU to the Pac 10/12 and the NCAA, twice as president of the Pacific-10 Conference in 2000-’01 and 2010-’11. He helped set policy and direction for WSU athletics, monitored the academic performance of student athletes, and served as chair of the WSU Athletic Council.
Casavant “built an international reputation as one of the leading economists in agricultural transportation,” said Pavish, presenting the award to the researcher and educator in front of an audience of peers, family members, state and academic leaders, and former students.
“Your research and reputation as a teacher is known by generations of Cougs, who sought out your introductory agricultural economics principles class, among many others,” Pavish said. “Through your time as WSU’s Faculty Athletics Representative, you’ve had a positive impact on thousands of student athletes, and become known as a respected and knowledgeable authority on academic integrity in college athletics. You demonstrate the Cougar spirit at its best… and we are so proud you are a member of the Cougar family.”
“Ken exemplifies rare excellence,” added André-Denis Wright, Dean of CAHNRS, presenting the award with Pavish.
“In his career at WSU, Ken has taught thousands of undergraduate students, and served as advisor to 50 master’s and PhD students,” said Wright. “He is one of the premier agricultural transportation economists in the U.S. His expert knowledge has frequently been called upon in testimony before the U.S. House and Senate, as well as state governments.
“He is deeply loyal to the land grant mission, and has spent his career advancing it, not just in communities in Washington, but in countries around the world, including Zambia, where he developed a master’s program in transportation management, as well as Zimbabwe, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, and Mali.
“Ken’s legacy will live on in the thousands of lives he touched at WSU,” said Wright.
From the local to far beyond, Casavant served his community, including as president of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, Sacred Heart Church, member of the Pullman City Council, board member of the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, chair of the WSU Faculty Senate, and president of the Western Agricultural Economics Association.
When Eric Jessup, Casavant’s colleague in the Freight Policy Transportation Institute, first came to WSU for his doctorate in the 1990s, he noted how there was always a line of students waiting outside Casavant’s office.
“Once you got inside to see Ken, all the other business he was worried about went away, and he focused on only those things that were relevant and important to you,” Jessup said.
Traveling the region, “he truly enjoyed sitting down and talking about people’s needs and concerns. He developed a national reputation by understanding local and individual needs.”
“Washington is the most trade dependent state in the United States, and when you can’t reach your customer, there is no trade,” Casavant said. “Transportation is the lifeline of our economy. Improving it is critical to people and products, and I have relished seeing our work at WSU providing those benefits.”
Casavant has won local, state and national awards for his teaching. His research program brought in more than $9 million in funded research, and he has co-authored several books and more than 100 articles.
The 2015 recipient of the WSU President’s Distinguished Lifetime Service Award, Casavant also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium.
“Being a graduate of WSU, a faculty member and a member of the Pullman/WSU community for so long, I was always pleased to contribute where I could – something that so many of our WSU community do so well,” Casavant said.
“Being recognized for what I have always enjoyed doing is a pleasure,” he added. “All young people should want to work in an area that is so essential, rewarding and fun.”