James Fugate, former superintendent of Auburn schools, looks on in the back yard of his Auburn home, on the east bank of the Green River. REPORTER FILE PHOTO 2009, Robert Whale

James Fugate, former superintendent of Auburn schools, looks on in the back yard of his Auburn home, on the east bank of the Green River. REPORTER FILE PHOTO 2009, Robert Whale

Fugate leaves his legacy with Auburn schools, community

Longtime superintendent dies at age 85

  • Thursday, April 19, 2018 2:10pm
  • News

Staff reports

As superintendent of the Auburn School District from 1973 until his retirement in 1997, Dr. James Fugate’s contributions to the Auburn School District and the community left an indelible mark on generations of students and staff.

During his tenure, student enrollment increased from 7,700 students to 12,100. To make way, the district built Hazelwood Elementary, Mt. Baker Middle School, Rainier Middle School, Ilalko Elementary, Lake View Elementary, West Auburn, Auburn Riverside High School, the Auburn Performing Arts Center and a new Auburn Memorial Stadium.

Fugate died Wednesday, April 11, surrounded by family. He was 85.

The district continues to carry on many of the traditions Fugate started, like holding graduation at the stadium, supporting award-winning music programs and strong career and technical programs, and participating in the annual Auburn parade.

Upon his retirement, the ASD Board of Directors renamed the district office the James P. Fugate Administration Building, honoring his 24 years of service to the Auburn School District.

In his retirement, Fugate continued to advocate for students in the ASD, often stopping by the district offices on 4th Street Northeast to offer advice, guidance and perspective to former superintendents Linda Cowan and Dr. Kip Herren, and the current superintendent, Dr. Alan Spicciati.

“I always appreciated his insights,” Spicciati said. “And his stories, I loved hearing his stories. I learned a tremendous amount from him.”

In addition to Fugate’s obvious passion for students, he was active in Rotary and a number of other civic ventures, serving on boards that continue to serve the Auburn community.

His four daughters attended Auburn schools, as did most of his grandchildren. His life inspired generations of educators and the passion for education stayed in the family. Daughter Jennifer is the principal at Chinook Elementary, daughter Cynthia is a teacher at Dick Scobee Elementary and daughter Mindy is a teacher at Pioneer Elementary. Son-in-law Carey teaches at Auburn Mountainview, and son-in-law James teaches at Auburn High.

Fugate hired Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Debbie Leighton to be the district receptionist when she was a senior at Auburn High. Leighton worked her way up, serving as Fugate’s secretary, human resources supervisor and director, and three years ago, earned a role on the superintendent’s cabinet.

“He just genuinely cared about people,” Leighton said. “He believed his job was to care about people. He had a tremendous sense of humor and laughed all of the time. His greatest contribution was his love for kids — it drove everything,” she said.

The community honors Fugate’s life at a public memorial in the Auburn High School Commons at 2 p.m., Saturday, April 21. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations in his memory to the Auburn Public School Foundation.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterburg (File Photo)
King County Prosecuting Attorney vows to protect reproductive freedom

Dan Satterberg joins over 80 prosecutors from around the country in their pledge.

Auburn Police
Dog bites girl, threatens officer, officer shoots dog

On May 13, the Auburn Police Department was dispatched to the 1800… Continue reading

King County approves emergency grant after U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Washington is expecting an influx of people seeking abortions from out of state.

Fedor Osipov, 15, flips into Steel Lake in Federal Way during last year's heatwave on June 28, 2021. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Heatwave expected to hit King County

Temperatures will likely reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 27.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII: Examining Auburn police officer’s grim tattoos

Episode 5 in special podcast series that explores Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Auburn High School graduates proudly don the Trojan colors. Photo courtesy of Auburn School District
Congrats to Auburn School District’s Class of 2022

A total of 1,221 students participated in Class of 2022 graduation ceremonies… Continue reading

File photo
Arsons and hit and runs | Auburn police blotter

The following information is taken from the Auburn Police Department’s daily blotter… Continue reading

John Daniels Jr. and his family pose for a photo with King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. Photo courtesy of Pete von Reichbauer’s office
MLK service medal awarded to Muckleshoot Tribal Councilmember

King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer awarded the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther… Continue reading

Photo courtesy of King County.
Officials urge caution when swimming this summer

Cold spring temperatures and larger than normal snowpack have created dangerous conditions

Most Read