Mary Cullinan is on her way to making history.
She has been named the next president of Eastern Washington University, the Cheney school’s 26th president. She is the first woman hired for EWU’s top post and the only woman to hold a presidency among the state’s major public universities.
University officials selected the 64-year-old from three finalists following a nationwide search that began after EWU President Rodolfo Arévalo announced his retirement earlier this year. Cullinan will transition from her job as president of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, to Eastern Washington this summer. She has 34 years of experience in education.
“EWU is a vibrant institution with powerful commitments to student success and strong connections with the region. It will be an honor to serve as president,” Cullinan said in a statement.
Emails among faculty reflected excitement about the hiring, said Raphael Guillory, EWU professor, interim director of the Chicano Education Program and a former faculty senate president. “The thing that I heard from other colleagues is she would be great. Her level of experience runs parallel to what Arévalo’s was when he started. Hiring a woman president adds perspective and diversity.”
He added, “When I got word today, I was personally excited. It’s exciting news.”
Cullinan has been Southern Oregon’s president since 2006. During that time, she’s focused on access and success for all students at the small university. She thinks her passion for students aligns well with EWU’s mission.
Earlier this year, the Southern Oregon University faculty senate announced a vote of no-confidence against Cullinan and the university’s two vice presidents. The vote against her didn’t meet the threshold to have her removed.
Cullinan attributed the vote and the doubt in her leadership to a difficult financial environment for all colleges and universities in Oregon.
Paul Tanaka, chairman of EWU’s board of trustees, said, “We are thrilled to have someone of Dr. Cullinan’s caliber come to Eastern Washington University. Her tremendous academic and leadership experience, along with her focus on student success, make her an ideal choice to serve as president of Eastern.”
Her salary hasn’t been disclosed yet, university spokesman Dave Meany said. Arévalo’s salary in 2013 was $266,709.
Prior to her role at Southern Oregon University, Cullinan was provost and vice president for academic affairs at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas from 2003 to 2006. She also worked as dean of the College of Arts, Letters and Sciences and professor of English at California State University, Stanislaus.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 and holds master’s and doctorate degrees in English literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
“Dr. Cullinan will continue our mission of working for the success of all students at Eastern,” Arévalo said in a news release. “She and I currently sit on the board of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and I believe she shares the important passion and values EWU needs to keep moving forward.”