With more than 42 years as a leader in higher education in the Pacific Northwest, Jean Floten is reinventing herself again.

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AFTER more than 42 yearsserving Pacific Northwest colleges and universities, some might expect Jean Floten to be ready to sit back and enjoy retirement. Friends and colleagues of the woman who is retiring as chancellor of WGU Washington, an online university, say that assumption would be incorrect.

Floten brought Bellevue College into the 21st Century as an early adopter of online learning and four-year degrees at community colleges. She was WGU Washington’s first leader when it opened in 2011. Floten is known for innovation in her work and for reinventing herself. She deserves thanks from the citizens of Washington.

Floten called her retirement the beginning of act four in her career, which has included 15 years leading Edmonds Community College, 22 years at Bellevue College and 5 years at WGU Washington.

She has made a difference not just at her schools but by influencing others around the region. At Bellevue College, she is also known for making opportunities for people with disabilities to earn degrees and creating innovative partnerships with Washington’s four-year universities. WGU Washington has grown to a student enrollment of more than 10,000 students in just five years and already boasts 7,200 graduates.

“I’m not ready to pull myself out of the work I adore,” Floten said last week as the retirement parties began. Her last day is Jan. 31. Plans include working on projects in support of higher education and doing some consulting work.

Phyllis Campbell, JPMorgan Chase’s senior executive in the Pacific Northwest and a member of the WGU Washington advisory board, calls her longtime friend a visionary who is always looking forward to see what colleges can do to help students reach their goals.

Floten is impressively flexible for someone with her higher-education résumé. After being the longtime president of Bellevue College, she could have coasted to her retirement but chose instead to reinvent herself again.

She says there’s still more change on the horizon for higher education. Technology will be part of the change, as will flexibility and new ideas. Here’s to Jean Floten and to hoping she will continue to share her ideas in this evolving education world.