Whitworth University introduces its new president
Scott McQuilkin has a long history with the north Spokane institution
Whitworth University introduced a native son as its president today [Friday].
Scott McQuilkin is a Whitworth alumnus who took over as interim president last summer when then-President Beck Taylor left to lead Samford University in Alabama. He has been affiliated with Whitworth for most of the last 40 years, as a student, coach, faculty member and administrator.
During a Friday ceremony in which he was introduced to the Whitworth community, McQuilkin recounted the story in which he says his athletic career at the university ended, but his academic career began. He was a student-athlete on the baseball team in the mid-1980s when he hurt his shoulder diving to a base during a game. After months of recovery and rehab, he says he recognized he could no longer play, so he took a job as Whitworth’s assistant baseball coach. When the head coach left, McQuilkin took over the reins at the age of 22, the youngest coach in the nation, he said.
“That led to a faculty appointment, that led to me pursuing a doctorate (at Penn State). It led to an appointment as athletic director, to vice president for advancement and now standing here,” he said.
McQuilkin will serve as Whitworth’s 19th president, but only the third in the last 28 years, after Taylor and Taylor’s predecessor, Bill Robinson.
McQuilkin says he inherits a university that is in a strong position.
“We’ve come out of an incredibly successful 10-year strategic plan, Whitworth 2021, and we advanced every aspect of the institution, academics, residence life, our commitment to the liberal arts, diversity, equity and inclusion, spiritual life, facilities, endowment, all across the board.”
In terms of current projects, he says Whitworth will soon begin work on a new five-year strategic plan. It will dedicate a new on-campus health sciences building this spring. It’s also raising money for a new engineering and physics building. This fall, it will begin offering doctoral degrees in physical and occupational therapy.
McQuilkin referred to Whitworth’s high rankings in publications that score universities for academic strength and value.
“We’re in the equipping business,” he said. “Our people equip students intellectually, spiritually, relationally and emotionally, such that when they move into their work, their community, their churches, their families, their vocations, they take all of their skills, their talents, their training, their full personhoods and apply a redemptive arc to wherever they find themselves.”
Initially McQuilkin wasn’t a candidate for the position. Brian Kirkpatrick, the president of the university’s board of trustees, said McQuilkin decided after he was elevated to interim president that he shouldn’t apply because that would scare away potential applicants. The position attracted 60 people, but none, Kirkpatrick said, who was as good a fit as the guy who didn’t apply. Eventually, he says, the trustees asked McQuilkin if he would accept the post and McQuilkin agreed.
He will officially take over as Whitworth’s president on February 1. His investiture ceremony will be held in the fall.