Phyllis J. Campbell endows deanship at WSU’s Carson College of Business

Closeup of Phyllis J. Campbell holding a pair of eyeglasses.
Phyllis J. Campbell

Washington State University and Carson College of Business officials recently announced the establishment of the university’s second-ever endowed deanship. The Phyllis J. Campbell Endowed Deanship stems from an extraordinarily generous gift from Phyllis (’73 Busi. Admin.) and Bill (’69 Civ. Eng.) Campbell of Issaquah, who met as WSU undergraduates and married not long after Phyllis’ graduation.

Due to financial constraints, attending college was far from guaranteed for Phyllis, who grew up in Spokane. Once she began exploring opportunities for financial assistance at WSU, however, Phyllis found it possible to earn a degree.

“At that time, WSU was one of the most affordable colleges we could consider,” Phyllis said. “My father was a dry cleaner. I was one of five children. And we didn’t have a lot of money. I clearly remember a very generous check showing up in the mail from a woman who established a scholarship fund at WSU.” 

Phyllis never forgot that scholarship and other WSU resources that allowed her to earn a bachelor’s degree and launch a prolific, trailblazing banking career in the Pacific Northwest — first in Spokane and ultimately in Seattle.

WSU’s announcement commemorates not only Phyllis’ distinguished career, but also her extraordinary leadership, commitment, and generosity in advancing the university’s teaching, research, and service efforts. She is a retired bank executive, philanthropist, and civic leader who served as a WSU Regent from 1991–2003. Among her professional distinctions are honorary doctorates from Whitworth College and Gonzaga University as well as WSU’s highest honor, the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award, in 2006.

Grounded in 40 years of executive experience and extensive board participation, Phyllis is renowned for her ability to foster a high-performance climate. But her career didn’t come without hurdles. Chief among them: proving herself daily in a male-dominated industry, Phyllis said, starting with her first job after college.

“It was really hard to find a job back then, especially for women,” Phyllis said. “I wanted to work for Old National Bank in Spokane. They weren’t hiring. They were skeptical of hiring women back then for whatever reason. So, I had to call them — every day.

“I share this story of persistence with students. I called the bank every day for 20-some days straight; I think they got so tired of me pestering them. I did get hired in their management training program. That was the start of my banking career.”

The endowed deanship for the Carson College of Business promises to have a tremendous impact on its programs. It will provide a sustainable base of support for innovation and excellence while affording the dean discretionary funds to address ever-evolving priorities.

“I think the deanship will help attract and retain great leadership,” Phyllis said. “Second of all, it will hopefully inspire others to give back.”

Officially, the gift comes from both Phyllis and Bill. The fund honors Phyllis’ name as a nod not only to her longtime business influence in the Pacific Northwest, but also her achievements as a female in a traditionally male industry.

“The Carson College of Business is extremely grateful to Phyllis and Bill Campbell for their extraordinary commitment and generosity to advance the leadership of the college,” said Debbie Compeau, interim dean. “I am proud the Carson College deanship will carry the name of such a strong and dedicated business leader as Phyllis and look forward to being able to direct this unparalleled investment toward the highest priorities of the college.”

In addition to supporting the Carson College of Business, the Campbells have also made gifts to WSU in support of athletics and engineering. It’s a philosophy of giving inspired by Phyllis’ first business mentor at Old National Bank, David Clack.

…It’s important to get involved in the community. It’s important to give back to causes. It’s important to pay it forward and pay it back.

Phyllis J. Campbell (’73 Busi. Admin.)

“Back then, he taught all of us his philosophy: the more you give, the more you get back; it’s an unending cycle,” Phyllis said. “It’s important to get involved in the community. It’s important to give back to causes. It’s important to pay it forward and pay it back.”

The endowed deanship is the second of its kind at WSU. The university’s first named endowed deanship was established in 2018 at the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences for the family of Cashup Davis. Each endowment provides resources to carry out the mission of each respective college and helps the dean develop a culture of philanthropy among university alumni and partners.

“An endowed deanship at WSU’s Carson College of Business in the name of Phyllis J. Campbell is fitting for so many reasons,” said Kirk Schulz, WSU system president. “Not only has Phyllis done her alma mater proud by way of a distinguished business career, but she and Bill — a fellow Coug — have paid it forward in spades with a philanthropic spirit that is sure to impact business students, faculty, and staff at WSU for generations to come. On behalf of the entire WSU system, I extend my utmost gratitude to the Campbells for their continued generosity and foresight.”

For more information about WSU’s Carson College of Business, visit business.wsu.edu. For more information about how to give to WSU, visit foundation.wsu.edu.

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