Visionary Leader Dean Allen Receives Honorary Doctorate From EWU

June 22, 2023

Eastern Washington University awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to McKinstry CEO Dean Allen during the university’s 2023 Commencement Ceremony on June 17.

“His unwavering dedication to education, social justice and sustainability has improved countless lives,” President Shari McMahan said while delivering honorary remarks. “Dean Allen is a man of action. He sees the challenge and becomes part of the solution.”

The conferring of the honorary degree is a way for an institution to recognize and honor individuals who have made a significant impact on their respective fields or society.  Allen, whose personal and professional contributions have improved life for millions of people throughout the world, said he was “deeply humbled by this honor.”

McKinstry CEO Dean Allen formally receives honors from Provost Jonathan Anderson during commencement ceremonies on Saturday, June 17, 2023.

As the CEO of McKinstry, a nationally recognized leader in the design, construction and maintenance of high-performing buildings and energy assets, Allen has promoted the development of projects that address urgent challenges that include climate change, affordability and equity.

Allen’s contributions to Eastern include “bringing world-class buildings to our region and providing cutting-edge opportunities for our students,” McMahan said, highlighting Allen’s visionary leadership on transformative projects he spearheaded in Spokane’s University District. (Read President McMahan’s full remarks in honor of  Dean Allen.)

Those projects include the SIERR and Catalyst Buildings – both outstanding examples of sustainability, energy efficiency and community collaboration. The Catalyst is now home to 14 programs within all four of EWU’s colleges, including business, computer science and electrical engineering. EWU’s new four-year nursing program will begin this fall in the SIERR building.

“Allen has also shown exceptional support for Eastern students and faculty through his generous educational grants program,” McMahan said. “He has provided substantial funding for projects, such as the South Landing Visualization Project, allowing visual communication design students to tackle real-world challenges.”

Dean Allen speaking at EWU Commencement on Saturday, June 17, 2023.

McMahan added that Allen “has selflessly devoted his time, expertise, and resources to Eastern Washington University, leaving an indelible mark on the institution, the community and society at large.”

And his work has not just helped Eastern and its students, the President explained: “Apart from his success in his industry, what impresses me the most about Dean is his deep care for the community.”

While serving as a trustee and past chair of Global Partnerships, an organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for people living in poverty, Allen facilitated more than $625 million in impact investments across 32 countries — investments that improved the lives of nearly 30 million people.

Recognizing the critical importance of access to healthcare and educational, Allen served on boards for Washington Roundtable and the Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation and Research Committee. He was founding board chair for Washington STEM, an organization focused on advancing early learning, college and career readiness and postsecondary success.

Dean Allen is welcomed by EWU President Shari McMahan, PhD, during commencement ceremonies on Saturday, June 17, 2023.

While accepting the honorary degree, Allen encouraged students – many who will soon embark on their professional careers – to think beyond making a good living to consider how to also make a “big difference” and to build meaningful relationships along the way.

“In my business, we always have used our favorite African proverb to think about how we go about things. That proverb says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together,’” Allen said.

Although we all are occasionally inclined to sprint forward by ourselves, Allen told graduating students, “The measure of your life’s success and impact will really be about how you go together. So many of the problems that my generation has left for you to solve, I’m sorry to say, are going to require a tremendous amount of collaboration – and going very far together.”