Ron Sims, a 1971 graduate of Central Washington University (BS Psychology) and former King County Executive and Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Thursday credited the university for helping to prepare him for his impressive professional achievements.
Speaking to an audience of several hundred students, faculty, and staff in the McIntyre Concert Hall during the annual State of the University address, Sims said he arrived at Central as “a lost soul” but graduated four-and-a-half years later as someone prepared to seek his place in the world.
“I would not have had my career without being here,” Sims said. “I went to a great school, a place that was willing to nurture who you are and what you can achieve. Thank you for being committed to all the future Ron Sims’.”
Sims also spoke about his upbringing in Spokane and how he was an indifferent student before attending CWU. He said the most valuable lessons he learned at the university were to ask questions and not be afraid to fail.
“I was free to make mistakes. I was free to experiment. I was free to grow as a student,” he said. ““We were told to expect the rapidity of change and growth, that the world was going to change and we should welcome it and not oppose it or be frustrated by it.”
He described one of his proudest moments when he told his late mother he had been offered a position by former President Barack Obama.
“I told her I was going to work for President Obama and she asked, “Isn’t he the black president?’ and I said, “Did you ever think there would be a black president?’ And she smiled,” he said.
Sims shared the stage with CWU James L. Gaudino who used the occasion to renew his promise to ensure that Central remains a welcoming campus environment that supports inclusiveness and diversity.
[Link to video of the entire State of the University address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjKFBV6IQOA&feature=youtu.be]
Gaudino said normally the State of the University address serves to celebrate the institution’s progress during the previous year but this year seemed different because of the current turbulent political climate in the country.
“I am disappointed and discouraged by the cacophony of civil discourse that seemed to divide, confuse, and alienate,” he said. “The sum of it left me feeling anxious about our present and our future.”
But, he added, what gives him hope is the special character of CWU and the campus community. He praised the university’s students, faculty, and staff for their dedication to creating a learning environment that is enriched by diverse experiences, abilities, and cultures.
“Together, we will continue to be a welcoming community that places the highest value on inclusiveness, free speech, and the exploration of ideas, identities, and cultures,” he said. “I am proud of the learning environment we offer to our students.
“I believe the next 10 years will require that we be increasingly flexible, innovative, and entrepreneurial,” Gaudino said. “What is key, however, is that we all strive toward the same goal, which is to empower and to unleash the full capability of Central.”
During his address, Gaudino also said 2016 was a very successful year for CWU, with the state of Washington investing more than $140 million in new construction and facilities renovation projects on campus.
“That’s a lot of money for a university our size, and it has definitely taxed our facilities and capital planning staff,” the president added. “However, they are getting it done with the excellence we have come to expect from them.”
Infrastructure enhancements, including the grand opening of Science II, have served to bolster and support CWU’s academic and student support programs.
“We are, simply put, the ‘Best in the West,’” Gaudino said. “Our collective commitment to student achievement is palpable. It’s why our students come—and it’s why they stay.”
Those students include members of a record freshman class, of more than 2,000 students during the 2015-16 academic year. Coupled with continued strong transfer student enrollment, CWU’s overall student body was nearly 12,000 during the period, which is almost a 25 percent in the past decade.
The president noted that an additional reason for CWU’s success was the nearly 200 new faculty and staff that joined the university during 2016. “They came not just for a job, but for an opportunity to improve the lives of our students,” Gaudino added.
Gaudino reported that CWU ended the 2016 fiscal year with small, but positive, budget surpluses, adding that salary and wage enhancements are forecast for the coming years. The university’s overall fiscal well-being was also noted by Moody's Investors Service. which reaffirmed CWU’s A-1 bond rating, essentially, the highest a comprehensive university, like CWU, can achieve, “and a very strong indicator of our financial health,” Gaudino said.
Media contact: Richard Moreno, director of content development, 509-963-2714, Richard.Moreno@cwu.edu.
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