President Gaudino reflects on time spent at CWU

Justin Zabel, Staff Reporter

President James L. Gaudino only has a few months left as president of CWU after being in the position for 12 years. He and his wife decided that stepping away from the position would be the best opportunity to go forward with plans they have for their next chapter. 

Gaudino said he feels “bittersweet” knowing his time as president is coming to a close. He said he loves it here, watching students perform both in the theater and in the sports complexes, and will miss CWU and its family tremendously.

However, Gaudino is not done being CWU’s president just yet. He has a few pieces of legislation still in the works. The Operating Budget and Capital Budget are being watched, and within these two budgets are student-focused projects such as the Center for Cultural Innovation. The intention of this project is to bring more people to understand how culturally bound CWU has become.

“There’s money in the budget to just focus on diversity and inclusivity on the campus. We’re hoping to get that, and of course we’re hoping to get more money out of the state so we don’t have to rely on the students, and we can rely on the state funding,” Gaudino said.


While Gaudino is continuing his work on the budgets, he is also making sure the new Health Science building gets finished up where Hertz Hall used to be. Not only is he focused on the new building being constructed, he said he is also in the process of finishing more construction plans that he would love to see make a positive impact for CWU students and their families. 

“The next construction project will be a major renovation of what we are calling the Health Education Building, which is going to be a combination between Purser Hall and Nicholson Pavilion, to integrate these two existing structures,” Gaudino said. “We are working with legislature on that. And we are trying to get design money for our next project, the project I won’t get to be a part of, but my successor will. And that’s a new Humanities and Social Sciences Center.” 

The new Humanities and Social Sciences Center would be around the library complex, and would integrate the library, Farrell Hall and the Language and Literature building, according to Gaudino.

Though these projects are in the works, Gov. Jay Inslee will need to sign the final bill of legislation before they can begin, which is still months away. Gaudino hopes this legislation can happen when he is still president, meanwhile, he and his team are receiving positive feedback on all the construction plans that are in the works.

With his time as president coming to a close, Gaudino said wants the university and students to focus more on the incoming president than him. 


Gaudino said he wants to tell the incoming president “to be authentic. Be who you are. And at the same time, really engage in [CWU]. Just immerse yourself. It is a wonderful place. The people are fantastic. Ellensburg is a great place to live. Just really take every advantage of the opportunity to be president at [CWU].” 

CWU families and the community of Ellensburg are wondering if they will see President Gaudino again, once he is no longer the CWU President. He no longer is living in the president’s housing in town. He and his wife are currently living in Cle Elum, about 30 minutes from Ellensburg, and he won’t be seen around campus as often.

“I want to give Jim Wohlpart all the room he wants and needs to be president of [CWU]. But as I mentioned in the first questions, … the real pleasure was getting to watch students, watching you all grow, mature, perform, in academic and co-curriculum activities,” Gaudino said. “It’s quite possible I’ll end up at a music performance or theater performance, or football or basketball or soccer game. But I’ll try to be as invisible as I am able to be.”

Gaudino said of the things he has changed in CWU to be a better school than it was when he took office, there is not one thing he can be known for. From the most diverse college in Washington, to the most construction ever done on a college campus to making sure that the students know that they have a role here on campus, these are all parts of what Gaudino has done to shape CWU the past 12 years, which he said he is very proud of. He cannot say which one will be his legacy, because his legacy is looked at through everyone’s eyes differently. 

“I think the definition of legacy rests in the people who remain afterwards,” Gaudino said.