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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

“Don’t Go, Don Garrity” (op-ed, Ellensburg Daily Record)

April 18, 1991

Dear Editor,

I have watched the events at Central Washington University over the last week with a profound sense of sadness. Donald Garrity has resigned as President of Central and life at CWU will just not go on as usual. We have lost an extraordinary leader and he will not be replaced easily, smoothly or quickly.
I had the privilege of being on Central’s Board of Trustees during the 1980’s and serving as Chair of the Board for two years. I watched Don Garrity meet and master challenge after challenge as he cajoled, encouraged, inspired, and chastised the university into a nationally recognized institution of higher education.

I watched him as he motivated Central Foundation into the multi-million dollar private support arm that it is. I watched him as he wooed legislators and governors to give Central a fair share of state resources and attention. I watched him as he sorrowfully oversaw the dismantling of various programs due to external financial restraints imposed on us. I watched him as he defended his administrative team against petty turf wars conducted by some faculty members. I watched him as he protected his faculty against overzealous Board members and Foundation contributors. I watched him as he gathered around him an outstanding cadre of administrators and enticed to the university numerous superb teaching scholars. I watched him as he opened the doors to far reaching exchange programs with Chinese and Japanese universities. These tasks were done as part of’ his exhaustive responsibilities of running a huge organization. And, most of these were done privately and without fanfare.

In his private life (such as it was), Don Garrity supported academic achievement, artistic creativity, athletic excellence and financial generosity by his speeches, presence and personal example.

In a community that even after a hundred years of Central, can still be anti-intellectual at times, Don Garrity is distinctly intellectual and thoughtful. And to his credit, he doesn’t suffer fools easily. He is simultaneously an articulate champion of equality of educational opportunity and as a world class sociologist, a promoter of academic excellence.

As a businessman I find him to be an unwavering enthusiastic proponent for Ellensburg, for job creation and for the private marketplace.

The current Board of Trustees should not have accepted Don Garrity’s resignation. Central cannot and Ellensburg cannot, with comfort, watch the passing out of its midst of one of Washington State’s premier educational leaders.

I became a Garrity supporter while on the Board and I remain a Garrity supporter to this day. He is a great president and one who will be extremely difficult to replace. It was premature for Garrity to resign – his global vision is not yet complete. It was a mistake for the Board of Trustees to accept his resignation. It should have wooed him back to Bouillon. As it is, it’s too late now to undo what’s been done.

As a footnote, for those of us who signed off on the Garrity education manifesto of equal opportunity animated by an expectation of excellence, our sole comfort is to know that Washington’s finest educational regent, Sterling Munro, is still on the Board of Trustees and will help in choosing the next President, hopefully, cut from the same cloth as Donald Garrity.

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