When EWU President Rodolfo Arévalo spoke of his first 100 days as leader of Eastern Washington University in the fall of 2006, he said, “I think, for the most part, people see a president as somebody that is very flamboyant or outspoken. I guess that’s not what I see as important. I see willingness to listen and doing thoughtful analysis as more important. By doing that, you can usually arrive at what is best for the university and primarily, what is best for the students – that’s what I am trying to mold into my vision for Eastern.”
By all accounts, Arévalo’s vision for a student-centered university has come to fruition during his eight years as president. He will retire on July 15, with more than 42 years of experience working in higher education.
“President Arévalo’s leadership and accomplishments during this historic time at Eastern have been outstanding,” said Paul Tanaka, chair of EWU’s board of trustees. “Dr. Arévalo’s thoughtful and measured approach to the many challenges and opportunities the past eight years has put the university, and its students, in a remarkable position to succeed.”
There were times during Arévalo’s years as president that would test anyone’s mettle. In December 2008, he went on medical leave for several months due to a bout with cancer. He’s in good health now, however. And like all state universities, there were multi-million-dollar budget cuts to deal with, which meant restructuring of various departments and realigning administrative duties – all while enrollment continued to increase.
President Arévalo led an aggressive effort to tell the story of access and opportunity for all students, and he focused his message on the power of education to transform lives for individuals and for the state of Washington.
During Arévalo’s tenure, Eastern’s ethnic-student diversity increased from 14.9 percent when he arrived, to 27 percent overall, and 31 percent of the university’s first-year student population in the fall of 2013. He is the first Latino president at any public four-year college or university in the state of Washington.
Arévalo believed that investment in education is a key economic driver and that it provides an educated workforce who earn degrees and remain in the state to work and give back to their communities. Because of his belief, he resolutely supported the legislative emphasis to provide greater numbers of graduates in the math and science fields and led the university in further development of degrees relating to science, health and engineering.
Under his leadership the university gained approval to offer an additional engineering degree in mechanical engineering. As it seeks to meet the growing market demand in the critical field of health care, EWU has created the new College of Health Science & Public Health, set to open in fall 2014, and now offers a new master’s degree in public health.
Because of his strong support of math and science education, Arévalo has been involved with work in the Cheney Public Schools, the Community Colleges of Spokane and WSU-Spokane. He has served as co-chair of the Spokane STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) network and is also affiliated with the National Hispanic Science Network.
Last fall, Arévalo received national accolades as he successfully negotiated a groundbreaking faculty-compensation contract that would bring faculty pay in line with market rates.
He also launched a new strategic plan aimed at the continued improvement of student retention and graduation rates. During his tenure, enrollment passed the 12,000 mark for the first time in university history. Under his leadership, Eastern also launched the first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, which will conclude in July.
His time as president was also marked by a tremendous growth in facilities, including a new recreation center, the first new residence hall in 40 years, the state-of-the-art renovation of the school’s largest academic building and the installation of the iconic red turf at Roos Field. Arévalo has also guided the university to unprecedented athletic recognition, highlighted by the EWU football team’s 2010 FCS National Championship.
In February, the Washington State Senate unanimously passed a resolution honoring Arévalo for his service to the university. The Senate resolution stated in part, “And whereas, Dr. Arévalo’s tenure as Eastern’s president may be coming to an end, but his absolute dedication to higher education will continue to live on through the countless students he has inspired and those who have had the pleasure of working with him; Now therefore be it resolved, that the Washington State Senate recognize and congratulate Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo for his steadfast guidance of Eastern Washington University, his dedication to limitless student achievement, his unyielding commitment to diversity, his 40-plus years of dedication to shaping the minds of students worldwide, and most importantly his humility and humanity.”
AT A GLANCE
Nickname: Affectionately known as “Dr. A.”
Background: A native of Edinburg, Texas, Dr. Arevalo is the son of migrant laborers who worked in Walla Walla and the Yakima Valley. He is a first-generation college graduate.
Family: Wife Nadine, five grown children: Christopher, Krista, Jamie, Kimberly and Michael and four grandchildren.
Education: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., 1973, PhD, Education Administration; University of Michigan, 1971, MSW, Social Work Administration; The University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, Texas, 1969, BBA accounting.
Experience: Began tenure at EWU on April 1, 2006, after seven years as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas-Pan American. He spent 18 years in the California State University System as a faculty member, department chair, associate dean, graduate dean and associate vice president. He also served as provost and chief academic officer at Fort Hays State University.
The search for Eastern’s 26th president is under way. The EWU Board of Trustees has formed a Presidential Search Advisory Committee, and the services of EFL Associates have been engaged to assist the committee in identifying the best candidates for the position.
The Board of Trustees is committed to keeping the Eastern community informed about the search process and seeking input from the EWU community. Updates on the search process will be posted on the website: www.ewu.edu/presidentialsearch. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please email the Committee Chair, Paul Tanaka, at firstname.lastname@example.org.