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Mary Cullinan to join EWU faculty after resigning as university president

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 5, 2020

Mary Cullinan, who resigned as president of Eastern Washington University in August, stands in front of Showalter Hall on Feb. 20, 2015.  (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Mary Cullinan, who resigned as president of Eastern Washington University in August, stands in front of Showalter Hall on Feb. 20, 2015. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

After stepping down as president of Eastern Washington University, Mary Cullinan will continue receiving a president’s salary and living in the president’s house on the Cheney campus for six weeks while helping the school transition to new leadership.

Later, Cullinan, who holds a doctorate in English literature, plans to join EWU’s faculty as a tenured professor, a university spokesman said Wednesday.

EWU announced Cullinan’s resignation on Tuesday, after the board of trustees appointed David May, the school’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, to a two-year term as interim president.

Her resignation, which was described as “retirement” in a university news release, came six weeks after EWU’s faculty senate held a vote of no confidence and signaled overwhelming disapproval of her leadership as the university braces for layoffs and tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts.

Cullinan will serve as a special assistant to May through Sept. 18, and during that time she will continue receiving her presidential salary of $372,020, said Lance Kissler, the university’s associate vice president for marketing and communications.

Kissler said the trustees wanted to give Cullinan, who was contractually obligated to live on campus during her eight years as president, time to find a new home in the area.

The arrangement appears to be a departure from Cullinan’s presidential employment contract, which was last renewed in July 2019 and set to expire in September 2022.

The contract states that should the president resign, she would have to give notice at least 180 days in advance and would not be entitled to her salary and most benefits when her resignation takes effect.

Kissler said Cullinan offered her resignation and “was not terminated by the board.” He declined to say whether Cullinan and the university had agreed to a legal settlement.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the union representing EWU’s faculty voted 122-8 to ratify an agreement with the university that protects many jobs and provides buyouts for tenured professors and separation incentives for senior lecturers. In exchange, the faculty agreed to take a one-year, 6% salary reduction and forgo a planned 2% raise.

EWU administrators also are expected to take pay cuts.

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