GNAC Mourns Passing Of Western Washington's Bill Roe

Tuesday, March 3, 2020
by Western Washington Athletic Communications

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Bill Roe, a fixture in the Western Washington University track & field and cross country program for the last 35 years as well as being nationally and internationally known for his involvement in the administration of those sports, passed away on Saturday, February 29, at 69.

Roe coached distance runners for the Vikings. His athletes set more than 20 school records and earned numerous NAIA and NCAA All-America honors.

“Bill was revered in the track & field and cross country world,” said WWU Director of Athletics Steve Card. “We were blessed to have him as part of our program. This is a sad time for Viking Athletics.”

Roe, who was a meet director extraordinaire, died in his hotel room at Victoria, B.C., while making final preparations for the North American, Central American, Caribbean Athletics Association Cross Country Championships, an international event held Saturday for which he had laid out the course. The meet was part of a plan for Victoria to host the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 2023 or 2025.

“Bill was an amazing person,” said long-time head Western Track and Cross Country Coach Pee Wee Halsell. “He loved doing cross country, track and road races. Setting up for events was what he did and that’s what he loved. He died doing what he loved.”

“He was an icon in northwest running and impacted people all over the world. He was a very kind man, very giving, never had any enemies. He was opinionated, but always listened – a good friend.”

Roe was a long-time USA Track & Field official and leader. He served as President of the USATF for two terms from 2000 to 2008. The founder in 1972 of Seattle's Club Northwest and in 1973 of the Pacific Northwest Association of USATF, Roe's resume includes work in nearly all capacities of the sport: as a coach, meet director, clinician, official, administrator and executive. He also was founder of Northwest Runner magazine.

“Bill Roe was a dedicated loyal advocate for and an integral part of our sport,” said USATF CEO Max Siegel. “His knowledge and kindness will be missed by everyone he knew in his nearly 50 years of service. Bill Roe is irreplaceable.”

Roe was a member of the founding USATF (then TAF) Board of Directors in 1979 and served on the organization's Board of Directors from 1986 until 2009. He became one of three vice presidents in 1988, re-elected in 1990 to a second two-year term. In 1992 and 1994, he won two-year terms as Secretary, and in 1996 was re-elected to the position of vice president for a four-year term. He served as an international team leader or coach nine times during his career.

 Roe led the USA team to the 2001 World Cross Country Championships in Ostendee, Belgium, the 2002 event in Dublin, Ireland, the 2003 championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the 2004 meet in Brussels, Belgium. Roe was a U.S. delegate to the IAAF World Congress in 2001, 2003, 2005 & 2007. He was a Master official and referee from the time USATF's certification program was founded in 1980. He directed a number of track & field meets, cross country meets and road races each year, including a series of a dozen summer all-comers meets in Seattle since 1969.

Roe moved to Bellingham in 1985 to pursue an advanced degree in education, and was a graphic designer/desktop publisher for Western's Woodring College of Education from 1989 until 2002. Since then, he freelanced in graphics and publishing in Bellingham and Seattle, and in event management throughout the Northwest, while continuing to coach at WWU.

A 1968 graduate of Nathan Hale High School in Seattle and the University of Washington (General Studies – Sports Programs Administration) in 1973, he earned a teaching credential from WWU in 1989.

Bill was one of six children born to Hal and Ellen Roe, both deceased. They include three brothers (Bob, Jim and Mark) and two sisters (Jan and Rebecca). He also has 13 nephews and nieces and seven great nephews and nieces.

“Besides his biological family, Bill had his USA Track family, his Club Northwest family and his Western family,” said Halsell. “And he loved children, especially his nephews and nieces and great nephews and nieces. That was a side of him that very few people saw.”

More information on services will be made announced when they are made available.