I’m sitting in the Seattle airport as I begin to write this—my last letter for Whitman Magazine. This space, like so many others in the Pacific Northwest, has become very familiar over the course of these seven years. I’ve come to treasure the stunning drive to Portland through the Columbia River Gorge. I think my car could drive itself from Walla Walla to Pasco, through the beautiful unique landscape, given how many times I’ve made my way to and from the airport in Pasco. The Long Shadows tasting room has become a favorite place to take friends and family who visit, with its magnificent Chihuly glass and views to the distant horizon. But it’s the spaces and faces on the Whitman campus that I have come to know the best and that I will miss the most.
I’ve had plenty of time to contemplate what I’ll miss. I shared the news of my retirement with the Whitman community on February 22, 2021, and my final day in this role will be June 30, 2022, a full 16 months later. The length of the transition on this end is a function of the amount of time needed to plan for and run the search for the next president. It certainly gives one plenty of time to contemplate both the process of leaving and what comes next.
It also prolongs the process of saying goodbye, with alumni events and professional meetings across the country and throughout the year. While I’m not fond of the many goodbyes, I’ve appreciated the many opportunities to say thank you—to donors and friends of the college who have supported our work, to students and alumni who have been and remain at the center of our work and remind me every day that the world needs more Whitman grads, to the staff and faculty who never lose focus on our mission of student learning, and to professional colleagues who have helped make this work much less lonely and isolating than it would otherwise be. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to express sufficient gratitude to the senior leadership team at the college and our Board of Trustees who have stood with me as we worked through the many crises and difficult decisions that face higher education today. That collective work has made Whitman even stronger and better positioned to serve future generations of Whitties.
To all of you, especially those I have not had an opportunity to greet personally this year, goodbye and thank you. It has been an enormous privilege to serve as the 14th president of Whitman College.
Kathleen M. Murray