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Mary Cullinan named EWU president

Current Southern Oregon University president will take over from retiring Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo Aug. 1


Eastern Washington University

Dr. Mary Cullinan was named Eastern Washington University's first woman president June 16.

The first woman president in the 132-year history of Eastern Washington University is set to take over her new job Aug. 1.

Dr. Mary Cullinan, Ph.D, currently serving as the President of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, was chosen by the Eastern's board of trustees out of a pool of three finalists that included current EWU Provost Rex Fuller and Tim Mescon, President of Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga.

Cullinan, 64, will become the 26th president of EWU and replace the retiring Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo who announced earlier this year he would step down from the post he's held since 2006. She's the second woman to hold the position of president of a state school in Washington, the first being Phyllis Wise at the University of Washington who served in 2010-11.

"We are thrilled to have someone of Dr. Cullinan's caliber come to Eastern Washington University," board chair Paul Tanaka said in a statement. "Her tremendous academic and leadership experience, along with her focus on student success, makes her an ideal choice to serve as president of Eastern."

Like Arévalo, Cullinan has served as president of her previous school since 2006. She brings 34 years of extensive higher education experience to the Cheney campus.

"I am thrilled to accept the position of president of Eastern Washington University," Cullinan said. "EWU is a vibrant institution with powerful commitments to student success and strong connections with the region. It will be an honor to serve as president."

According to Melody Rose, Chancellor at SOU, among other things, Cullinan helped increase enrollment by some 1,300 to 7,000 students and built new relationships with Rogue Community College during her time in Ashland.

However, the new EWU leader recently came under fire and received a 63 percent vote of no confidence from faculty at SOU in March. That fell just short of the two-thirds number needed to call for Cullinan's removal from office.

At issue was her part in dealing with a reduction in state money and the need to cut a reported 80 positions at the school.

"Dr. Cullinan will continue our mission of working for the success of all students at Eastern," Arévalo said.

Cullinan grew up in Washington D.C where her father was assistant postmaster-general under President Dwight Eisenhower. He later became a speechwriter for various senators, congressmen and other influential politicians-including presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Cullinan studied English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated in 1972 magna cum laude. She earned a masters degree in 1973 and Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1978.

Cullinan did dual-duty as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs as well as professor of English at Stephen F. Austin State University from 2003-2006. She was also a finalist for the president's position at Youngstown State University in Ohio.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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