Former Boeing executive joins CWU BOT


Courtesy of CWU.

Eric Rosane, News Editor

For former Boeing Chief Executive Officer Ray Conner, retirement means anything but a lack of work and sleeping in past 11. Despite his retirement from Boeing last December, he’s staying busy.

Conner was appointed to serve a six-year term with the CWU Board of Trustees (BOT) last Thursday, Feb. 22 by Governor Jay Inslee following the end of former Alaskan Airlines Executive Glenn Johnson’s term.

Having retired from Boeing last December, and having lived in his first house in Bellevue for over 33 years, Conner said that he’s not planning on going anywhere.

Conner, a CWU graduate, has spent 40 years with Boeing. He worked his way up from a small-time mechanic to vice chairman of the Boeing company and chief executive officer at Boeing Commercial Airlines, according to a CWU press release.

After graduating with his bachelor’s in health sciences, Conner took a student teaching role at Ellensburg High School. There he helped teach biology and coached the freshmen football team for one quarter.

Conner began working at Boeing in 1977. In 1978, after working at Ellensburg High School, Conner found himself working that summer at an Alaskan fishery before returning to work at Boeing. He said that he thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about what he wanted to do.

“What I realized when I went to Boeing is that you can be whatever you want,” Conner said. “It’s like a city within a city.”

Conner said that in those early years after graduation he was still trying to figure out what he wanted to do as a career, having decided to not pursue education.

From a mechanic, to being the general manager of the 777 program, to being the head of sales, Conner’s story of climbing the ladder from a mechanic to an executive is something no one else has done within the company.

According to Conner, he has held around 10 positions with Boeing.

Conner graduated from CWU in the spring of 1979, and he looks back on his time at CWU with fond memories. He took time off of his job at Boeing in 1977 to finish his degree.

“It was fun. I had a lot of friends there,” Conner said. “Not a lot of people appreciate it, being in a small college town. Other places might not appreciate that as much”

Looking at the programs at CWU, Conner said that he sees the importance in programs such as aviation and education. He hopes that his contribution as a member of BOT will help provide students an education that prepares them for their profession.

“I’ve been a spokesman down in Olympia, with reference to what the university has wanted to do,” Conner said. “I feel very honored to be apart of [the board]. I want to do a really good job for not only the university, but for the students and faculty that we’re serving.”

Conner and his wife, Katie, donated $300,000 in 2015 to a CWU scholarship fund that rewards students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, according to a CWU press release.

In recognition of Conner’s retirement, Boeing will be donating a larger sum to that scholarship fund over the next few years, according to Conner.

Conner will begin his orientation with the BOT on March 9, which will include a visit to the Ellensburg campus.