Five years, hard work, and courageous leadership can do a lot.

Consider where WSU is today as compared to the depths of the recession just five years ago. Then, we reacted to losing half our state appropriation by taking the road less traveled—we set priorities rather than across the board cuts. Today, we sit with a solid geography of campuses (including Everett), approval for a mission-driven medical school as a start-up for the state, and are the 42nd university in the United States to successfully wage a $1 billion campaign of private support.

I’ve been reflecting on President Floyd’s recent directive in creating an Advancement model and comparing it to the last time we attempted such. Then, the driver was slashing the budget and setting priorities. We saved on mid-management, flattened the structure, and achieved economies of scale. Given the times, it worked to get us through. But it didn’t last. In hindsight, the greatest value of the mash-up was to mature leadership and change within each of the functional service units to WSU. It was done for internal purposes.

The opportunity President Floyd creates today is far different. Having achieved considerable progress internally, the choice of selecting alumni, communications, and development to form the new ‘advancement’ coalition is positioning WSU for the changing world around us. It creates a service unit for the institution that cares for the private support of WSU, and sets us up to create the most innovative kinds of public/private partnerships imaginable.

I am convinced that the most successful 21st century public higher educational institutions will be those that resurrect their public purpose, and demonstrate the courage and will to serve the common good. With land grant universities in my blood, I could not be more proud of what WSU has accomplished in keeping our legacy strengths fresh and cutting edge—be it access we’ve achieved for students, the relevancy of our research, or the real-world impact of our service and outreach across this state and beyond. But I am particularly impressed with the path we have chosen for our future. Our state-wide footprint and our attention to the needs of Washingtonians is one that is distinctive.

In university-speak, you know when advancement is working when there is an increasing affinity for the institution, a constructive dialog and communication takes place, and there is ongoing discovery of ways to support each other. I look forward to working with our alumni association, our marketing/communications colleagues, and those among our development staff in doing just that. Together, we can further what seems a bright future for WSU.

Go Cougs, John