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Thursday, May 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ewu Boss Rides Captain’s Wave As Ship Sinks

People the world over say they want to be like Mike.

Not me. Trying to live up to Michael Jordan standards is too much for a low achiever like me.

I want to be like Mark.

That’s Mark Drummond, the el presidente of my alma mater - Eastern Washington University.

Excellence may be the traditional superhighway to the top, but my man Mark proves that mediocrity can pay pretty darn well, too.

After running Eastern into an iceberg, Mark decided it was “in the best interests of the university” to abandon ship before the Cheney-based college strikes bottom like the Titanic.

In leaving, says Mike Ormsby of the EWU board, Mark will continue to receive his $110,000-a-year salary for the next two years so he can be “retooled.”

A two-year paid leave. Where do I sign on?

Even phys-ed majors can understand why Mark would want to slink out of Dodge.

Eastern enrollment crashed from 8,000 to 6,600 during the last three years. Staff morale, I’m told, is lower than a snake’s belly in a Post Street pothole.

Sure, maybe it’s not all Mark’s fault. But everyone knows where the old buck stops.

Silly me. I thought retooling was what Ford or General Motors did when they gear up to build a new model of car or truck.

Not at Eastern. Ormsby says Mark will use his Retool Time to prepare for a triumphant return to the college as a faculty member.

This shouldn’t be too much of a strain. Mark has the credentials to teach business or education classes and has already taught a number of courses during his reign at Eastern.

Being retooled is, of course, not without tragic sacrifice.

By abdicating his poo-bahship in 1998, eight years after it began, Mark no longer will receive a $30,000-a-year housing allowance.

A bit of that sting was lessened last month, when he was handed $40,000.

Some administrators call it a “longevity bonus.” Others see it for what it really is: “a golden handcuff.”

The portly payoff, according to presidential assistant Ken Dolan, was part of Mark’s original hiring deal. Board members saw a behemoth bonus as a way to keep him around longer than some of his “here today, gone today” predecessors.

Unfortunately, Mark hasn’t been around to tell me what his retooling regimen will entail. Perhaps as a pretooling stress reliever, he has been away on a journey to the Orient.

I’m told he was in Hong Kong to witness the historic takeover by the Chinese.

Maybe he was negotiating. Handing Eastern over to the Commies could be Mark’s final brilliant solution to sagging enrollment and revenue problems.

Those dour-faced Chinese would probably call in the tanks and whip the college back into shape before you can say Peking duck.

Meanwhile back at home, at least one of the EWU natives is having a field day at Mark’s expense.

Tom McArthur, president of the union that encompasses Eastern’s nonfaculty and nonadministrative workers, is passing around a satirical “retooling” newsletter that takes humorous potshots at his boobish bosses.

“Union leaders envious of the deal struck … will seek ‘retooling language’ for members in their next contract,” reads one story.

“For a good retooling, call 555-2929,” is another jab.

“I think I want two years pay so I can be retooled for a job as an exotic dancer,” says McArthur, laughing hard.

I’ve seen McArthur. There’s not enough retooling in the world to make that happen.

But as long as we’re wishing on a star, I’d like to be retooled for a job that comes with few expectations, fabulous travel opportunities and a paycheck fat beyond the average schmuck’s dreams.

I know. I want to be president of Eastern.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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