CWU News

CWU Alumna, Award-Winning CFO to Give CWU Kent Commencement Address

“You can do whatever you put your mind to but you have to believe you can do it. That is a key element for getting things done.”

That’s an axiom Chrissy Yamada, the chief financial officer for US Anesthesia Partners-WA adheres to in her own life. It is also part of the guidance she will offer the Class of 2019 in her keynote address during CWU’s Kent commencement on Sunday, June 9, at 1:00 p.m. at the Showare Center.

“The goal for me is to provide something meaningful to the class of 2019 in the short time that I have—every word has to count,” Yamada says about her address.

In her current role, Yamada is responsible for such areas as budgeting, business analytics, along with financial management and reporting for the venerable Seattle anesthesiology practice, which has now expanded nationally.

Yamada began honing her business skills as a student at CWU-Lynnwood, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1983. She says her undergraduate studies helped lay the foundation needed for her highly successful professional career.

“I don’t know where I would be today in Central had not been there in Lynnwood,” Yamada says. “I had to pay for my own education and I was working 30-hours-a-week to go to college. Central provided me with the opportunity to get a good, affordable, quality education while I could still live at home. It grounded me in working hard, I felt very accomplished with my bachelor’s degree, and  I was ready to go and tackle the world.”

Yamada has already been named Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Year in 2015 by the Puget Sound Business Journal. That same year, she was honored as among the Northwest Asian Weekly newspaper's "Women of Color Empowered - Women & Money: Making a Difference." And, in 2016, the National Diversity Council, Washington Womens’ Conference named Yamada among its top 20 Business Women.

Despite her impressive resume and ties to the university, Yamada admits she was surprised to be asked to give the commencement address at her alma mater.

“It didn’t seem real. I was very surprised that somebody would reach out and ask me to do something like that because it’s a pretty big ask,” she says. “I’ve done many presentations to groups, but nothing like this—it’s very different. I will be talking to thousands, not just small groups like I’m used to. There won’t be eye contact, or opportunities for questions and answers, and the theme is different. I will be trying to offer words of inspiration and wisdom, not talk about the technical issues relating to work.”

Yamada says she will discuss her work experience in terms of her career advancement.  A certified public accountant, Yamada previously was senior vice president and CFO for Evergreen Health; vice president of finance, CFO, and controller for Northwest Hospital, and as a supervising senior for KPMG Audit.

Along with her business analytics, there is another number that has become important to Yamada: 26.2.—the number of miles in a marathon. It’s a distance she has tackled more than 50 times since resuming a  running career, after a 22-year break, at age 47. She currently runs in about five marathons annually.

“I use it [running] to help me mentally be tough and not be complacent, because running marathons is really hard,” she explains. “When I found running it helped me become disciplined and I loved it I feel that running helps me to get to [euphemistically] places that I need to go.”

Running and her five-days-a-week training regimen typify Yamada’s self-disciplined approach to life. It was an attitude she says she developed on her own, evidenced by her first accounting class, which she took as a sophomore at Cleveland High School in Seattle.

“You work at your own pace, you read the books, and then you do the practice tests,” Yamada says. “I finished Accounting 1 in two weeks, then the teacher told me that I had 10 more weeks. I ended up finishing the entire series in eight or nine weeks. I just really enjoyed it and working with number came just very naturally to me. In the end, I am very happy that I went into accounting.”

She is also happy to get involved in community service, including as the former volunteer president of the board, and as treasurer, and board member for King County Project Access NW, a non-profit corporation which works to improve access to specialty health care for low-income and uninsured patients.

“I want to give back to people and help others, like people have helped me along the way,” she says of her volunteer efforts. “In my next phase, I want to mentor students, coach others, work on committees. I really, really, really enjoy that a lot.”

More than 265 graduates of CWU’s Puget Sound-area University Centers in Des Moines, Lynnwood, and Pierce County are expected to hear Yamada’s address and participate in this year’s Kent Commencement. Overall, an estimated 5,000, are expected to be on-hand for the event.

Over the course of the 2018-19 academic year overall, CWU will confer 2,745 bachelor’s and 322 master’s degrees.

Media contact: Robert Lowery,CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,

EDITOR’S NOTE: About the CWU University Centers
For more than 40 years, CWU has met the educational needs of time- and place-bound students with six University Centers statewide. Affiliated with community colleges, the University Centers offer upper division courses in selected degree areas. They are designed to serve the needs of students who desire a bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and may need accommodation for family and work obligations.

In addition to the centers named above, there are CWU-Yakima, at Yakima Valley College; CWU-Moses Lake, at Big Bend Community College; and CWU-Wenatchee, at Wenatchee Valley College. There are also two instructional centers, in Sammamish and on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.