This month's issue of Provost Perspective - Outgoing provost's legacy: "I was always motivated by a love of this institution."

May 2019

Provost Perspective

Closeup of Dan Bernardo.

Outgoing provost’s legacy:

“I was always motivated by a love of this institution.”

“Dan deserves the gratitude of the entire WSU family. His efforts have touched the lives of countless students, faculty, and staff. There’s no doubt he has made the University a better place—now and for the future.”

— Kirk Schulz, WSU President

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For Dan Bernardo, the highway of life runs through Washington State University.

First as a WSU doctoral student, then later as faculty member, director, dean, provost, and interim president, this first-generation college student has embraced all things WSU during his 20-year association with the University.

Now, reflecting on his WSU legacy as he prepares to step down this summer as the University’s provost and executive vice president—its second-in-command executive—Bernardo is grateful, and thankful, for the journey. Above all, he says, he will cherish the special bond shared by members of the WSU community, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and stakeholders.

“I would like people to remember that I always was motivated by a love of this institution,” he says, pausing to choose his words carefully. “This institution is one of the most important things in my life. I’ve served in a lot of different roles, and I hope that the institution is better as a product of that work.”

Bernardo’s life story is similar to those of many of today’s graduates. He spent much of his early life on his family’s farm, located on the ocean side of the San Francisco Bay peninsula. His Portuguese-American parents made it clear to the young Bernardo and his brother that they wanted a better future for their two sons. It was a path that mandated a college degree.

Farm life, Bernardo believes, instilled in him two of the traits that indelibly shaped the rest of his life: his work ethic, and an appreciation of the land.

After earning an undergraduate degree in agricultural economics at UC Davis in 1980, life served up a fateful twist. While in the process of applying to graduate schools, Bernardo was diagnosed with lymphoma. As a result, most of the colleges he had queried about graduate school lost interest in him. But one—WSU—continued to leave the door open.

“WSU said the assistantship offer stood—it was a standing offer,” he recalls. “They continued to call, checking on me, and I was just drawn here by that care.” Though he didn’t realize it then, it was the beginning of a life-changing chapter in his life.

After enrolling at WSU and completing his doctorate in agricultural economics in 1985, Bernardo joined the faculty at Oklahoma State University (OSU), serving 10 years and moving up the academic ranks to professor. Then he was recruited to serve as professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University (KSU), a position he held for the next decade.

The twin experiences were invaluable preparation for his WSU tenure, Bernardo says. “I developed an appreciation of how a land-grant needed to serve agriculture and the state. Agriculture is very important to both of those states.”

Although he enjoyed his two decades in the Midwest, Bernardo also yearned for something more: WSU and the deep, almost inexplicable connection he felt to the faculty, staff, and students he experienced during his graduate studies in Pullman. That yearning motivated him to apply for the deanship of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) when the position opened in 2005. Needless to say, he was delighted when hired.

When he considers his eight years as dean, Bernardo points out one of the college’s headlining achievements: the rebuilding of the trust of the state’s agricultural stakeholders in WSU that occurred. The trust netted the University millions of dollars from stakeholders that were invested in ag research, including much of the $253 million CAHNRS raised during the University’s last major fundraising campaign.

The overall productivity of the college grew similarly. “It’s all about the CAHNRS faculty and staff and their commitment to excellence,” Bernardo notes. “Administrators don’t end up doing the research. They don’t teach the students. We hired really good people. I am proud of how much progress the college has made in the last 15 years.”

Ask him about his favorite memories as an administrator, and Bernardo’s face lights up when he talks about WSU’s students.

“We have tremendous students,” he says. “Not many of them have grown up with a silver spoon in their mouth. I just love to watch students blossom during their time here. I think that’s what motivates most of our faculty as well.”

The provost also embraces opportunities to introduce prospective students to the University and the family-like connections it creates. “I speak at a lot of activities like Week of Welcome and at recruiting events, and I think when you’re an alumnus of an institution, and you care so much about an institution, it comes across to people. It’s very genuine for me, and it’s effective.”

Bernardo is proud of the WSU programs he has championed as provost to help students succeed in their educational pursuits. He believes the University will need to continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of society and the changing demographics, needs, and interests of students.

While he is not completely retiring (President Schulz has asked him to assume a part-time post focused on special projects), Bernardo looks forward to a reduction in the 60-plus hour weeks he has invested in stewarding the University’s fortunes for the past 15 years.

“WSU has an enormous opportunity over the next 10 to 20 years,” he says, “to really, really elevate its role in higher education. I look forward to watching the University grow.”

Thanks and Appreciation

“I would argue you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who loves this University more than Dan Bernardo.”

Dave Cillay
Vice President for Academic Outreach and Innovation

“A strong leader helps those around him to be successful, and that is certainly a hallmark of Dan Bernardo. Thank you, Dan!”

Lisa Gloss
Dean, Graduate School

“Being selected for the Provost’s Featured Faculty Member recognition was ‘the’ highlight of my 50-year recognition of being a Coug. Thank you, Dan.”

Mel Haberman
Executive Associate Dean, College of Nursing

“I deeply appreciate Dan’s advice, his frankness, and his deep knowledge of the institution. (And his Coug spirit was infectious).”

Matthew Jockers
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

“Dan has been a strong and visible advocate for excellence and growth of creative activity, research, and scholarship at WSU. I’ll miss Dan, both as a strong advocate for research, and as a colleague and friend!”

Chris Keane
Vice President for Research

“There is no one who loves WSU more or cares more about our students than Dan. I have learned a lot about leadership from Dan and I know that we are all better because of his many years of service to our University.”

M. Grant Norton
Dean, Honors College

“I believe one of Dan’s most important accomplishments as provost is encouraging greater collaboration among the different colleges and departments at WSU. He’s an outstanding individual who cares about others.”

Bruce Pinkleton
Dean, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

“Dan, thank you for all of your efforts as provost, interim president, and provost again. Your support of the deans (especially this dean) was appreciated more than you likely realized. Know that you will be missed.”

Gary Pollack
Dean, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

“Dan has done more for, and cares more about, WSU than anyone I know. Even more than Butch — although I do not know Butch personally.”

Jay Starratt
Dean of Libraries

“Dan’s role in standing up the medical school has been pivotal to our success. Thank you Dan, both personally and from the entire college of medicine.”

John Tomkowiak
Founding Dean, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine

“One of the things I have appreciated about Dan as provost is his willingness to problem solve and stand with me in a supportive way as I have worked through difficult decisions. I am a better dean because of this support and the college is in better shape.”

Mike Trevisan
Dean, College of Education

“Washington State University and all of Coug nation owes a debt of gratitude to Dan Bernardo for his many years of leadership at this institution. He is the true embodiment of the Cougar spirit of service.”

Phil Weiler
Vice President, Marketing and Communications

“Dan, thank you for hiring me as dean of CAHNRS. I look forward to getting to know you better as my friend. Best regards and well wishes in this next phase.”

André-Denis Wright
Dean, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

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