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Avista Corp. senior vice president, alum Jason Thackston elected as Whitworth’s next chair of board of trustees

April 11, 2014

Jason Thackston, '92
Jason Thackston,’92, senior vice president for Spokane-based Avista Corp., has been elected chair of Whitworth’s board of trustees and will assume his new role beginning July 1. Thackston will succeed current board chair Walt Oliver, ’67, after his exemplary six-year term.

“As we enter Whitworth's 125th year, Jason is stepping in as board chair at the perfect time,” Taylor says. “His experience in business leadership and his passion for the Whitworth community will be invaluable as we enter into an exciting chapter in the institution’s history. As an alumnus, Jason is committed to ensuring that students have the best experiences possible, and that the institution is healthy and positioned well to meet the opportunities and challenges going forward.”

As Avista’s senior vice president, Thackston is responsible for overseeing the utility's gas and electric transmission and distribution operations. He previously served as Avista's vice president of finance, overseeing financing and capital activities and being involved in corporate development, investor relations, risk management, and planning and analysis. He joined Avista in 1996 and has held leadership positions in customer solutions, energy delivery, finance, risk management, investor relations and corporate development.

Thackston earned a B.A. in international studies and business management from Whitworth in 1992, and he earned an MBA from Gonzaga University. In addition to serving on Whitworth's board of trustees, he serves on the boards of the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee, the Northwest Gas Association, and the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County. Previously, he served on the boards of the YMCA of the Inland Northwest, the Northwest Business Development Association, and the Business Development Corporation of Eastern Washington.

Thackston's wife, Julie, is also a '92 Whitworth grad, and they have five children.

Oliver says it was a pleasure for him to serve as board chair, and he is looking forward to continuing to serve as a trustee.

One of the board’s final actions under Oliver’s leadership was a unanimous vote to extend Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor’s contract through the 2019-20 academic year, establishing strong, ongoing leadership into the university's future. "Beck has been an exemplary leader," Oliver says. "We are excited to not only extend his contract, but to also retain the leadership qualities in himself and in the staff he has brought to the institution."

Walt Oliver, '67, with President Beck A. Taylor
Under Walt Oliver’s leadership of the board, the university transitioned to a new president, helped shape an ambitious 10-year strategic plan, and oversaw major additions to the campus, including Robinson Science Hall, the Hixson Union Building expansion, and the University Recreation Center. Additionally, Oliver helped guide Whitworth through the process of reaffirming its relationship to the Presbyterian church during times of great change within the denomination.

"In so many ways, Whitworth has prospered tremendously under Walt's careful leadership,” Taylor says. “As a proud alumnus, business executive and longtime trustee, his tireless and generous dedication to Whitworth's mission has helped solidify the institution as an integral figure in Christian liberal arts education in the United States. On a more personal note, I’ve enjoyed our partnership very much. No matter the circumstances, I always knew I could turn to Walt for sound advice and perspective that kept service to Whitworth’s students front and center.”

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Scott McQuilkin, vice president for institutional advancement, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4386 or

Lucas Beechinor, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or