Investiture Ceremony Formalizes McMahan’s Leadership of EWU
During an investiture ceremony replete with academic pomp and regalia, EWU formally welcomed Dr. Shari McMahan as the university’s 27th president.
McMahan was selected by EWU’s Board of Trustees to serve as Eastern’s principle administrative officer in February 2022. She began her service four months later. Prior to coming to EWU, McMahan served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University, San Bernardino.
The President’s Investiture ceremony is a tradition that Eastern shares with a number of universities across the nation. Its origins date back to the early Middle Ages, when the Latin term investiture was adapted to describe a ceremony in which a new leader was formally “clothed” in the symbolic vestments of governance.
Eastern’s Oct. 23 event carried echoes of those ancient traditions. It began at the historic One-Room Schoolhouse, where the building’s antique bell tolled over an assembly of faculty luminaries — each gowned in full academic regalia — who then marched in procession to Showalter Hall. They were accompanied by crowd that included still more EWU faculty members, staff, students and supporters of the university, along with friends and family members of the president.
At the Showalter Auditorium, after a video-taped congratulatory message from Gov. Jay Inslee and a series of short speeches from EWU luminaries, Jay Manning, chair of the EWU Board of Trustees, placed a gold medallion around McMahan’s neck and administered the oath of office. The assembled crowd of guests and visitors cheered.
“What an honor it is to stand before you today,” McMahan said. “And it is my honor to serve as the 27th president of Eastern Washington University.”
In subsequent remarks, McMahan described her first days on the job as a whirlwind of conversations and meetings. Through it all, she said, one thing stood out: “I was immediately embraced as part of the Eastern Eagle family. And what an amazing family it is — supportive, welcoming, gracious, and above all, proud of the institution that has stood strong for over 140 years.”
McMahan, a first-generation college graduate, then recalled how her parents had enthusiastically supported her academic ambitions, urging her to pursue a university degree. Their confidence in her, she said, set her on the path that led to Eastern’s top job.
“The decision to attend college required a great amount of courage, and has provided more opportunities than I could ever have imagined,” she said.
McMahan went on to thank the many family members, friends, and academic mentors and colleagues whose support made possible her success as a faculty instructor, researcher and administrator.
She cited, in particular, an undergraduate-research experience at the University of California, Irvine, where her work with a faculty investigator involved using human hair samples to track potentially harmful lead exposures. The project, she recalled, and its findings indicating that disadvantaged communities were at greatest risk from lead poisoning, opened her eyes to the potentially transformative power of a life in academe.
“It was because of that research and personal growth that today, as an administrator in higher education, my passion is working with first-generation and underserved students, to propel them forward and create opportunities for their transformation,” McMahan said. “For these humble, kind, and hardworking students, it not only changes their lives but also positively impacts their families and the communities we serve.”
After praising the many alumni, faculty and community donors whose financial support, she said, is crucial to helping EWU fulfill its mission, McMahan next referenced the ongoing “strategic planning process” that will help leverage such support going forward.
That process, she said, “will set goals, strategies and investments in order to close equity gaps in graduation rates, increase our regional impact, and ensure all students — whether they’re first generation or part of a family tradition — find success and a sense of belonging as Eagles.”
In the end, she added, it will be an intensive focus on student success that she hopes will define her legacy as EWU’s president. “Students need EWU to be its best every day — and we need to ensure that our next strategic plan, and our next 140 years, continues to deliver on our promises.”
“In closing,” McMahan said, “I can’t express enough my gratitude and honor to serve as president of Eastern Washington University. We have a bright future, a clear path, and a community of support that will continue to propel us forward.”