March 10, 2008
Whitworth President to Receive National Award for Innovative, Collaborative Leadership
Whitworth University President Bill Robinson will receive the Charles Foreman Award for Innovation in Private Higher Education in recognition of his leadership in helping private colleges forge successful partnerships with public universities, the business community and under-represented minority populations.
The Foreman Award is presented each year by the Foundation for Independent Higher Education (FIHE) to an individual, institution or organization for extraordinary and innovative leadership reflecting collaborative effort and endeavor. Robinson will receive the award April 29 at FIHE's annual meeting in Jersey City, N.J.
"I'm very honored to be recognized by FIHE, an organization that has done so much to help students afford independent higher education," says Robinson, who is in his 15th year as Whitworth's president. "It also feels good to be acknowledged for collaboration. Colleges miss a lot of win-win opportunities because we get caught up competing against each other rather than against our real enemy – an undereducated society. Whitworth is committed to excellence in all things, including collaboration and innovation. Whatever leadership I've provided has been in following that spirit."
Violet Boyer, president and CEO of Independent Colleges of Washington, an association of 10 private colleges and universities in the state, nominated Robinson for the award; Boyer hails Robinson's bold leadership in helping co-found the Higher Education Leadership Group in Spokane. The group - originally an offshoot of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, of which Robinson is a former chair - brings together presidents of the five public and private higher-education institutions in the region as well as leaders of 15-20 area businesses. The group's goals are to discuss common challenges and to plan strategically and collaboratively to address Spokane's workforce-development needs without duplicative and overlapping programs.
In nominating Robinson for the award, Boyer also cited Robinson's extraordinary focus on students, as evidenced in part by Whitworth's role in partnering with the Northwest Leadership Foundation to launch the Act Six Leadership & Scholarship Initiative, in 2002. The program recruits and equips emerging urban leaders to engage the university campus and their communities at home; based on its success at Whitworth, Act Six has since expanded to colleges in Alaska, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. More than 67 percent of Whitworth's Act Six scholars are first-generation college students and 79 percent are from low-income families. All 11 members of cadre one graduated in 2007, and 36 out of 40 scholars originally selected for cadres two through five are still enrolled at Whitworth, reflecting graduation and retention rates that far exceed national averages.
"Bill's impact on students can never be underestimated," Boyer wrote in her nomination letter. "When you're on the Whitworth campus, you see the wonderful camaraderie between Bill and the students. It is a very casual but mutually respectful relationship. Bill is genuinely interested in them and their experience, yet there is also no doubt about who the leader is. He teaches and leads these students by example."
Under Robinson's leadership, Whitworth has enjoyed nearly 500 percent growth in freshman applications, steadily increased enrollment with record selectivity, retention and graduation rates, significant growth in endowment and capital facilities, and greater external visibility.
"Bill's consistent articulation of Whitworth's mission has manifested itself in a commitment to academic excellence, a deepening of our Christian commitment, and increasing engagement with the larger community," says Dale Soden, executive assistant to the president, head of strategic planning, and a longtime faculty member at Whitworth. "Thanks to Bill's leadership, these commitments have permeated the institution in ways that are profound and are likely to be long-lasting."
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,600 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Violet Boyer, president and CEO of Independent Colleges of Washington, (206) 623-4494 or violet@ICWashington.org.
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