Kato put academics into practice

FOR MORE THAN THREE DECADES, SHARLEEN GAY KATO ’84 had her faculty office in Peterson Hall — the same building where her parents, MERLIN GAY ’53 and CHARLOTTE MARTINSON GAY ’52, met in the 1950s.

From there, Kato thrived in her 36-year career, serving as professor of family and consumer sciences, chair of human development and family studies, director of family and consumer sciences, and senior international officer in the Office of Global Engagement. She retired in June 2022.

“It has been such a gift to serve here,” Kato said. “I am grateful for the impact that SPU had on me and on all the students I’ve walked alongside over the years.”

In addition to interacting with students, Kato honed her expertise with longtime professional memberships in such organizations as the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and professional certification in family and consumer sciences-human development and family studies. She wrote numerous textbooks used in college and high school career and technical education programs.

Kato and her students also put academics into practice. For nearly 10 years, just before Christmas, she and her students went to the Philippines for two weeks to serve in a local orphanage and teen home, while also helping area residents build local support.

“I hope my students left SPU feeling empowered, having been assured God loves them and that they were created for a unique purpose,” said Kato.

In retirement, Kato intends to write more, serve in her community and professional guilds, continue leading a community Bible study, travel, and spend time with her three young grandsons.

“Sharleen has been a great colleague and friend,” said Jaeil Lee, professor of apparel design and merchandising. “We celebrate her retirement, but her legacy will live on.”

Her legacy also lives on through her family. Kato’s son, ALEXANDER KATO ’11 teaches at the Seattle Pacific Seminary. Her daughter-in-law, ANNIE HAIGHT KATO ’09, is an SPU assistant professor of management in the School of Business, Government, and Economics. Her daughter, STEFANIE KATO KOSCO ’14, MA-SSM ’16, and son-in-law, COLIN KOSCO ’09, are also SPU alumni. Husband Dean Kato serves on the SPU Board of Trustees.

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