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New leaders begin service over the summer

Spokane is experiencing a shift in leadership in the faith and education communities.  Along with these changes are shifts that occur every year in congregations and nonprofits. Each leader brings new ideas and approaches, and each also builds on the legacy and wisdom of previous leaders.

The following stories were compiled from press releases to introduce the leaders.  The Fig Tree will write feature stories once they have been in their roles for a while.

Thayne McCulloh

Thane McCulloh

Thayne McCulloh is Gonzaga University’s 26th president

During July, the Gonzaga University Board of Trustees elected a lay leader, Thayne McCulloh, as the Jesuit university’s 26th president, succeeding the Rev. Robert Spitzer, S.J.  Thayne, who will be inaugurated as president at 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 22, at McCarthey Athletic Center, has served as interim president since his predecessor left in July 2009.

The 45-year-old social psychologist has served Gonzaga in various academic and administrative positions for 20 years.

The university’s Board of Members suspended Gonzaga’s bylaws, which stipulate that the president must be a Jesuit. 

“Our world is filled with technological advancement and staggering challenges because of poverty, economic instability and international conflict,” he said.  “In this context, our Jesuit-led mission is more important than ever. We are engaged in a transformational process, preparing students to be well-educated women and men who will make a long-lasting impact on our community and world.”

Since beginning at Gonzaga, he has promoted academic excellence, community relations and institutional health.  He has taught in Gonzaga’s psychology department, emphasizing cross-cultural psychology.

As interim president, he has helped navigate Gonzaga through the economic recession, implementing new resource strategies.

Thayne, who grew up in Washington, D.C., and Seattle, completed three years as food service sergeant in the U.S. Army before beginning studies in 1986 at Gonzaga, where he met his wife, Julie.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1989, and went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in experimental social psychology at Oxford University in England in 1998.

Thayne, who attends St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Spokane, served two years as interim academic vice president before becoming interim president in July 2009.  He has served in a variety of administrative roles at GU since 1990.

Thayne wants to provide students the caliber of experience he had as a student 20 years ago.

For information, call 313-6102.

Beck Taylor

Beck Taylor

Beck Taylor is Whitworth University’s 18th president

Beck Taylor assumed duties July 1 as the 18th president of Whitworth University in Spokane, succeeding Bill Robinson, who served for 17 years.  Bill will work with him as a transitional consultant for the coming year.

His inauguration will be at 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 15, in Cowles Memorial Auditorium on campus, as part of a week-long series of events on what it means for Whitworth to be “A Community of Courage.”

Beck, 40, said he was drawn to Whitworth’s “strong sense of community and its mission to uphold both rigorous, open intellectual inquiry and a commitment to Christian conviction as complementary rather than competing values.

“Whitworth is a leader among Christian universities because it is courageous in its quest to nurture the life of the mind and to engage society’s important issues,” he said. 

Since 2005, Beck has been dean and professor of economics for the Brock School of Business at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.  He previously was associate dean for research and faculty development for the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University.

After earning his undergraduate degree in economics and finance at Baylor, he worked as an analyst for Andersen Consulting in Houston, Tex. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

In 2000, he began to teach economics at Baylor and was appointed in 2002 as a visiting scholar to Harvard University for a year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

At Samford’s Brock School of Business, Beck helped to transform the business school by building a $100 million endowment and establishing eight new academic programs .

He has published more than 24 studies in economics journals on research in public health and child developmental psychology.  

His research has been cited by such organizations as National Center for Children and Poverty at Columbia University, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Center for the Advancement of Health, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, and the Heritage Foundation.

Taylor and his wife of 17 years, Julie, have three children: Zach, Lauren and Chloe.

For information, call 747-3200 or email

Bishop BlaseCupich

Bishop Blase Cupich

New bishop named to serve
the Catholic Diocese of Spokane

In June, Bishop William Skylstad announced his successor, the sixth bishop of Spokane, would be Bishop Blasé Cupich.  

Bishop Skylstad is apostolic administrator of the diocese until his successor’s installation at 11 a.m., Friday, Sept. 3, at McCarthey Arena at Gonzaga University.

Bishop Cupich has been Bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D., since September 1998.  The native of Omaha, who was ordained in 1975, served as a priest in the Omaha Archdiocese.

He said his first priority is to learn about the needs of the Spokane Diocese.

“I am willing to be surprised by the faith of people, to find that people are good,” he commented.

Although the Spokane Diocese has faced economic challenges, he said he comes from “a mission diocese” that learned to do more with less.

“It’s about mission, not money,” he said, noting that if the mission is right, money follows.

Bishop Cupich’s priestly formation took place at the college of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and at North American College and Gregorian University in Rome. He has a doctor of sacred theology degree in sacramental theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He served the Omaha Archdiocese as an associate pastor, high school instructor, director of the archdiocese’s Office for Divine Worship, and instructor for continuing education for priests and deacon formation at Creighton University, Omaha.

From 1981 to 1987 he was secretary in the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C.  He was then named pastor of St. Mary Parish, Bellevue, Neb., for two years, before he became president-rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, from 1989 to 1996.

He returned to Omaha as a pastor before the Vatican named him bishop in 1998.

Bishop Cupich has worked for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, the Liturgy Task Force on Liturgy with Children, the Ad Hoc Committee on Scripture Translation, Committee on Vocations, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse.  He is chair of the Committee on Protection of Children and Young People.

For information, call 358-4205.

Rabbi Michael Goldstein

Rabbi Michael Goldstein

Temple Beth Shalom’s
new rabbi sees a broad role

Temple Beth Shalom’s new rabbi, Rabbi Michael Goldstein, is a third generation Texan who comes to Spokane after serving several synagogues in New Jersey since 1992.

Active in the Young Judaea youth movement, he spent a year in Israel after high school before earning a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern history from Brandeis University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  After studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, he was ordained a rabbi in 1987.

Then he decided to “make aliyah”—to immigrate to Israel—and moved to Kibbutz Hanaton as one of the founders of the first Conservative-affiliated kibbutz.

He said this move fulfilled his “long-standing Zionist dream.”  He directed the seminar and hospitality center, welcoming and working with groups from North and South America, Europe and Israel.  There he met his wife Annette, a graduate of the University of Texas.  They married in 1990.  He is a citizen of both Israel and the United States.

The rabbi served Glen Rock Jewish Center from 1992 to 2006.  He was interim rabbi at Congregation Bnai Tikvah in North Brunswick, N.J., before serving three years at Temple Beth Torah in Ocean, N.J., a congregation he helped merge with a nearby synagogue.

His nationwide search led him to Temple Beth Shalom.

Unlike in New Jersey where there are many synagogues and each can be narrowly defined so people can choose one that fits them, Rabbi Michael said Temple Beth Shalom is the primary synagogue in the region, so the “rabbi and synagogue must be broadly based.

In Spokane we have a responsibility to be as inclusive as we can be so we are the Jewish home for a wide spectrum,” he said.

Settled in his role just three weeks when interviewed in late August, he endorses a developing idea of having a peace sukkah be a prominent theme of the festival of Sukkot beginning Wednesday, Sept. 22, and coinciding with the International Day of Peace and One Peace, Many Paths events in the community.

“Part of our prayer is for God to place over us God’s canopy of peace.  The sukkah is a place of refuge, welcome and hospitality,” he said.

To me, peace on the local or national level is about mutual respect, tolerance and understanding,” he explained.  “It does not mean that all barriers are magically removed, but that we can live in peaceful co-existence.

“We are sovereign in our identities,” he said.  “There is nothing wrong with celebrating our differences and agreeing that there are some areas in which we may not be in harmony. 

“That does not mean we cannot live in respect of each other, respecting our differences and searching for common ground where we can find it,” he continued.

“That’s peace,” said Rabbi Michael, who was involved in interfaith work in communities he served in New Jersey.

For information, call 747-3304.