PULLMAN, Wash. — William H. Gray, the founding campus executive officer and dean of Washington State University Spokane, will step down from the post, effective Jan. 31.
Currently holding the longest tenure of any senior WSU administrator, Gray is credited with leading the university’s efforts to develop world-class higher education opportunities in Spokane. Under his leadership, WSU Spokane has grown from 59 students and a storefront office to an expanding campus adjacent to the downtown core, 800-900 students enrolled in a variety of programs, and a multimillion dollar research program.
“There aren’t many people who have had the opportunity to build an institution from the ground up as I have,” Gray said. “My decision was made easier by my knowledge that the campus is on a solid footing with a bright future. The extraordinarily high-quality faculty and staff team we have recruited to WSU Spokane will take the campus into that future.” Gray said his plans are to take a sabbatical.
Following his sabbatical, Gray will join Provost Robert Bates’ staff to work on economic analysis and academic planning.
A member of the WSU faculty since 1972 on the Pullman campus, Gray moved to Spokane to become acting director of the WSU academic programs then offered in January 1987. Enabling legislation in 1989 established WSU campuses at Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver, and Gray was named campus executive officer and dean.
When Gray started, WSU’s academic home in Spokane was a storefront office in the Freeway Plaza Building. Today, the university owns and manages the growing Riverpoint Higher Education Park. The newest facility on campus, the Health Sciences Building, was dedicated in February 2002. The next building, the Academic Center, has been designed and awaits legislative funding.
WSU President V. Lane Rawlins said Gray’s leadership and ability to develop partnerships with business and higher education institutions have benefited the Spokane area tremendously.
“Bill’s successful efforts and guidance for more than a decade are seen in the development and expansion of the Riverpoint Higher Education Park,” Rawlins said. “With the strong foundation Bill helped provide, the Riverpoint campus will continue to make significant contributions to advanced education of professionals and provide facilities for WSU to partner in research with the high tech and health science industries of the region.”
Two-thirds of the students at WSU Spokane are pursuing graduate and professional doctoral degrees. Ninety faculty members bring in around $5 million annually in grants and contracts, with a campus total of more than $47 million since its establishment. Gray was responsible for bringing in more than $16 million as a principal investigator.
“While I have only worked with Bill for a short time, I admire and respect his accomplishments over more than a decade of leadership of WSU Spokane,” Bates said. “Recruiting excellent faculty members and expanding research to a multi-million dollar mark is a substantial contribution to Spokane, the university and those who benefit from that research.”
Under Gray’s leadership, the campus has developed a slate of offerings not available elsewhere in the community, focusing especially on graduate studies in the health sciences, design disciplines, educational leadership and engineering. In the last four years, the campus has added a host of degrees and certificates.
Proposals for the Doctor of Design and Doctor of Education have been approved by the WSU Faculty Senate and the WSU Board of Regents, and are pending final approval at the state level.
Throughout his tenure in Spokane, Gray has been active in the community, serving on the governing boards of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, Spokane Area Economic Development Council, Spokane Symphony, Boy Scouts, Deaconess Medical Center and Inland Northwest Health Services.
He is currently in his fourth year as chairman of the board of Empire Health Services, which operates Deaconess Medical Center, Valley Hospital and Medical Center, and a number of urgent care clinics. Gray also sits on the Washington State Board of Law Enforcement Training Standards and Education and the Policy Council of the Washington State Hospital Association, and was recently appointed vice chair of the Governor’s Statewide Task Force on Healthcare Personnel Shortages.
Gray said his involvement on the health care front is no accident. “We had a conscious plan for the campus from the earliest stages as we began to develop our health sciences core,” he said. “We knew the university had been underrepresented in leadership roles in the Spokane health care sector, and we set about to address that.”
He cited the Medical Research Institute proposal being presented to Congress for possible funding as an example of the partnerships that have been developed. It is a top priority in the campus’ strategic plan. If funded, the proposal will leverage the research assets of WSU and the clinical assets of Spokane as the largest regional medical center between Seattle and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
“The programs we house are the cornerstone of Spokane’s future as a research-friendly community,” Gray said.
The university will be naming Gray’s interim replacement shortly. A national search for a permanent campus head is expected to be underway soon.