Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, October 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 47° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

Robinson “set a high bar” for leadership at Whitworth

Bill Robinson, president of Whitworth University, believes the recession is teaching us how to live without so much “stuff.”  (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)
Bill Robinson, president of Whitworth University, believes the recession is teaching us how to live without so much “stuff.” (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)
A student introduced himself to Whitworth University president Bill Robinson on Monday. Tuesday morning, before Robinson’s surprising announcement that this school year will be his last, Robinson ran into the student on campus and greeted him by name. The student was impressed, but Robinson is well-known for making all feel welcome at Whitworth. “He’s so important to everybody on campus – the board, the students, the janitors – everyone,” said Rich Hadley, president and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated. “He has set a high bar. It will be very difficult to replicate that kind of leadership.” Robinson, who turns 60 on Sept. 30, said the timing feels right. “We’re starting another five-year strategic plan,” he said. “The question is whether I have another five years that would be good for Whitworth and good for me. It’s just one of those intersection points. I feel confident (Whitworth) would benefit from new energy and some fresh eyes.” Whitworth University has grown in students and stature during Robinson’s 17-year tenure. Under his watch, the Whitworth campus spent more than $83 million on campus improvements, its endowment reached nearly $75 million, enrollment grew 60 percent and the number of freshmen applications increased more than 500 percent, according to a university news release. The private, liberal arts university has 2,675 students. Robinson also reaches out beyond campus. He served as chairman of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, now called Greater Spokane Incorporated. “Bill is so woven into the fabric of Spokane,” Hadley said. “It used to be that the 10 miles between Whitworth and the center of the city was a long distance. Bill made that a smooth trip by bringing the campus and the community together.” Robinson and his wife Bonnie – principal organist for First Presbyterian Church of Spokane – plan to stay in Spokane. He hopes to do more writing. His monthly newsletter, “Of Mind & Heart” circulates to 20,000 readers, inside and outside Whitworth. He’s written two books on leadership, and he hopes to focus in his third book on how organizations, in these cost-cutting times, can be both “productive and life-giving.” In a message to the Whitworth community Tuesday, Robinson wrote: “I’m sure you know that we consider Whitworth to be the embodiment of our most deeply held spiritual and professional values, but we sense the time has come for me to step away. You have made me a better leader than I was ever meant to be. Thank you. Now, please join me in getting back to the good work of helping our students fulfill our mission to ‘honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity.’” Robinson is known for his accessibility. He walks or rides his bike everywhere. The Robinsons live in a home on campus and routinely open it up for receptions and meetings. Robinson said he’s proudest of the connections he made with the young people educated at Whitworth. “I deeply care for the students and I think they all know that,” he said. The search for his successor will begin immediately, and the new leader will likely be in place by July 2010.
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.

American families feeling the pinch of COVID-19 pandemic

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index asked about 1,330 adult Americans in different income brackets a variety of questions, including how their finances are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy COUNTRY Financial)

The year 2020 hasn’t been the most forgiving year for families and their pocketbooks.