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Whitworth University Honors the Life of Former President Art De Jong

January 30, 2024

Whitworth University is deeply saddened to announce the death of Art De Jong, Ph.D., the university’s 16th president. De Jong passed away on Jan. 26 at a retirement community in North Carolina.

De Jong served as president from 1988-92. He came to Whitworth from Muskingum College in Ohio after President Robert Mounce announced his retirement in 1987.

Known for his administrative success at Muskingum, De Jong immediately went to work on fundraising and securing Whitworth’s financial stability. There had been a demographic decline in the college-age population during that time, and a looming recession began to take its toll on colleges and universities across the nation. Whitworth was no exception. In his second year at Whitworth, De Jong faced the difficult task of making substantial cuts to balance the budget.

De Jong is perhaps best remembered for institutionalizing long-range planning as Whitworth attempted to preserve the strengths of its past and look forward with a clear purpose and vision. 

In 1991, De Jong suggested Whitworth should move toward university status and proposed the establishment of schools of Fine Arts and International Studies, along with the existing School of Education. It was his desire to “build bridges to the community,” and he pushed for Whitworth to be involved with the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technical Institute (SIRTI), a consortium of higher-education institutions in Spokane.

“There are a number of things for which we should honor President Art De Jong,” Whitworth President Scott McQuilkin says. “He deeply encouraged our faculty to take seriously the integration of Christian faith and learning. His talent for recruiting exceptional people to the board of trustees, some of whom served and contributed for decades, is still being felt today, and he worked tirelessly to establish Whitworth’s place in higher education here in the Inland Northwest. Although his tenure at Whitworth was relatively short, his impact remains to this day.” 

De Jong was 89 years old. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Joyce. He is survived by his second wife, Alida Grady, five children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. 

De Jong loved nature and was known for his admiration of all the trees at Whitworth. To leave messages for his family or plant a tree in his honor, please find his obituary here. Our thoughts are with the entire De Jong family at this time. 

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of about 2,500 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. 


Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or