Thayne McCulloh to be Inaugurated as GU's 26th President

Thayne McCulloh

October 19, 2010

Gonzaga News Service 

SPOKANE, Wash. — In a ceremony rich with academic tradition and Jesuit ritual, Dr. Thayne M. McCulloh will be inaugurated as the 26th president of Gonzaga University at 3 p.m. Friday (Oct. 22) in the McCarthey Athletic Center. Delegates from more than 45 universities will join the institution's faculty, administrators, and distinguished guests in a procession resplendent with color as civic, religious and business leaders join with the Gonzaga community in an occasion of historic significance.

Inaugural events begin Friday with Inauguration Mass at noon in St. Aloysius Church, followed by the formal Inauguration ceremony and the Inaugural Reception at the McCarthey Center immediately following the Inauguration.

For President McCulloh, 46, whose applied career and education as a social psychologist have been profoundly influenced by Jesuit education, the day offers an opportunity to reflect upon Gonzaga's storied history. It is also an opportunity to affirm the University's commitment to a 470-year-old heritage of Jesuit pedagogy that prizes (among many attributes) academic excellence, the promotion of justice, the ability to see God in all things, and the imperative to develop productive, ethical, and capable men and women to serve the world. President McCulloh, Gonzaga's first lay president, will be intimately involved in the promotion and sponsorship of Gonzaga's identity as a Jesuit and Catholic mission.

The inaugural address will be delivered by Sister Kathleen A. Ross, S.N.J.M., president emerita and professor of cross-cultural communication at Heritage University, Toppenish, Wash. President McCulloh will respond. Sister Ross, one of the nation's best-known and well-respected leaders in independent higher education, stepped down in July after serving for 28 years as Heritage's founding president.

The sound of bagpipes will start the colorful inaugural procession as Gonzaga's Trustees and Regents, University faculty and administrators, and delegates from distinguished universities enter the arena. Gonzaga Academic Vice President Patricia O'Connell Killen will serve as master of ceremonies, and Rev. Stephen Kuder, S.J., rector of Gonzaga's Jesuit community, will deliver the invocation. The Most Rev. Blase Cupich, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, will give the benediction. Gonzaga Board of Trustees Chairman John Luger will install the new president, and the president will then receive his mission from the Very Rev. Patrick J. Lee, S.J., provincial of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. Fr. Lee, who is Gonzaga's former vice president for mission, expressed full confidence in President McCulloh.

"I am happy to be able to give my strong support to Dr. Thayne McCulloh's appointment as the first permanent lay president of Gonzaga University. I am confident that he will carry out the mission of the Society of Jesus," Fr. Lee said. "From a more personal perspective, I am also grateful for the very positive working relationship he and I developed during my time as an administrator at GU and the warm friendship I share with him, his wife Julie and their children." Fr. Lee will preside at the Inauguration Mass and deliver the homily. Concelebrating with Fr. Lee will be Revs. Kuder and Craig Hightower, S.J., Gonzaga's director of University Ministry, along with Jesuits and other priests.

Sister Ross, whose college days began at Gonzaga, received the 2010 Henry Paley Memorial Award from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in recognition of her unfailing service to students and faculty. Heritage, located on the Yakama Nation Reservation, has flourished in its mission to educate "multicultural populations which have been educationally isolated." NAICU President David L. Warren described her as "a true pioneer" for her "service to underserved students, and her leadership in inspiring others to reach out to the forgotten." In 1991, Georgetown University presented her with the John Carroll Award. She holds honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Alverno, and Pomona Colleges; and Notre Dame, Whitworth, Gonzaga, and Seattle universities (among others). In 1997, she was awarded a prestigious MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which she promptly gifted to Heritage to fund student scholarships and new programs. In recent years, she has been a steadfast proponent of the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to legalized residency for noncitizen college students who meet its stringent educational requirements.

President McCulloh was born in Los Angeles, attended Blanchet High School in Seattle and demonstrated leadership qualities early on. Before college, McCulloh completed a three-year enlistment as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. His military service was fundamental to his development, but it also exposed him to extreme poverty, deep racism and entire communities bereft of educational opportunities. This experience underscored for him the fundamental power of education as a force for change.

In college he served as president of the Gonzaga Student Body Association and the Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Nu, and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree (1989). McCulloh was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil.) in experimental social psychology from Oxford in 1998, and his thesis examined the impact of social situations on sex role stereotyping.

McCulloh has worked continuously at Gonzaga since 1993 and served as Gonzaga's interim president since Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., departed in July 2009. He was named president by the Board of Trustees on July 16, 2010. McCulloh has served Gonzaga in a multitude of administrative and academic positions ranging from assistant dean of students to dean of financial services and interim academic vice president since his first job coordinating residence life. He shares with Harry H. Sladich the distinction of receiving Gonzaga's Lindberg Loyalty Award.

Board of Trustees Chairman Luger praised McCulloh as the right leader for Gonzaga.

"The appointment of Dr. McCulloh gives us great optimism for the future of Gonzaga University. The mission of Gonzaga is strong and well-articulated, and the faculty here is second-to-none," Luger said. "Dr. McCulloh is blessed to have a presidential cabinet that has a collective service to the University of more than 150 years. Gonzaga is in good hands."

President McCulloh has focused on the promotion of academic excellence, the affirmation of Jesuit and Catholic identity, development of strong collaboration and contribution to the Spokane community, and robust fiscal health. These objectives were his focus as interim president and continue as he engages with the local business community and alumni. His efforts and vision have been integral to Gonzaga's successful enrollment management the past dozen years. Enrollment reached an all-time high this fall with more than 7,800 students. President McCulloh continues to engage the campus community and alumni to identify Gonzaga's optimum enrollment while maintaining the signatures of a Gonzaga education: academic excellence, service to others, and a profound sense of community that fosters lifelong friendships.

"Our primary mission is to educate students. I plan to continue efforts to optimize operational costs while focusing additional resources on educational programs, student life, and a healthy financial aid program," McCulloh said. "Part of this effort will include building Gonzaga's endowment to make the University more accessible to students who are motivated to seek a Gonzaga education. Finally, as Gonzaga prepares for its 125th Anniversary in 2012, I plan to seek greater collaboration with the Spokane community to further the prosperity of the City and region through the service, diversity, ingenuity and economic resources of this University and its students."

McCulloh said Gonzaga has forever changed his life. It's where he and his wife Julie (Gonzaga's dean of admission) first met, and where many of his values were shaped. The McCullohs have three daughters: Kathryne, Anne and Emily.

"The Jesuits, our previous presidents, and my colleagues at Gonzaga have allowed me to participate fully in the life of this institution," McCulloh said. "I am excited about the prospect of giving back to Gonzaga and its constituents through a vision focused on preserving our mission, unique student life experience and academic excellence while exploring new frontiers that continue to prepare our students well to tackle today's complex societal and global issues."