July 31 will be my final official day as provost and executive vice president of Washington State University. Serving as dean, vice president, interim president, and provost of my alma mater over the past 15 years has been the highlight of my professional life. And as many people know, WSU is more than my alma mater, it is one of the most important things in my life and something that I hold near and dear to my heart. A special thank you to President Floyd and President Schulz for affording me these opportunities.
The job of provost is not easy, and it is certainly complicated by the financial stress that we have been working under over the past several years. Nonetheless, the work is meaningful and important. We have accomplished much together during this time, and I hope you believe that WSU is a better place as a result. Over the past couple of years, we have been successful in eliminating WSU’s $30 million annual deficit which is the first and most important step toward financial recovery. This accomplishment was led by the hard work and sacrifices within our academic units, and I thank those faculty, staff, and administrators for their contributions.
Watching the amazing accomplishments of our faculty on a day-to-day basis is an incredible point of pride. No matter what the challenge, our faculty are always up for the task. When one calculates our productivity on a per-person basis, WSU faculty out-perform their colleagues at some of the highest ranked public institutions in America (many in the top-25!). So, to our faculty, thank you for the honor of serving you.
During my time as provost, we have been able to bring on board some amazing deans. I regret that I will not have the opportunity to work with some of the newly recruited deans, but they are all off and running and doing great things. To all the deans, it has been a pleasure working with you; I so much appreciate your loyalty and dedication. Also, a thank you to the leaders in the trenches who have the toughest job at a university – the chairs and directors.
Finally, I want to thank our dedicated group of vice provosts, associate vice provosts, and staff within the provost’s office. I am proud of the fact that over my five-year tenure as provost, we were able to decrease the number of administrators in the provost’s office. This was only possible because of the dedication and work ethic of people like Fran McSweeney, Kelly Ward, Mary Wack, Erica Austin, Craig Parks, and Melanie Neuilly. A special thank you to my chief of staff extraordinaire, Kristina Peterson-Wilson, and Don Holbrook, “the best finance guy in the business.”
Over the past three months, I have been working very closely with incoming provost Mitzi Montoya to assure as smooth of a transition as possible. We have spent countless hours corresponding by phone, email, and in person about the myriad of issues and entities within the provost’s office. I am thoroughly impressed with her knowledge of university administration and how quickly she grasps the complexities surrounding issues. I am 100 percent confident that she will hit the ground running and put into action new ideas and improvements to make WSU a better place.
I will continue to serve WSU in a variety of ways, most importantly bringing new resources and opportunities to the academic enterprise. One of the most important qualities of a good leader is recognizing when it is time to move on. It is that time, and I wish you all the best in the future.