Alumna works hard to overcome dyslexia then becomes a college president
Dr. Cynthia Pemberton MS ’83 grew up in Medford then headed off to Willamette University in Salem where she competed as a student-athlete in swimming and earned degrees in biology and psychology. Her initial small-college experience would have a deep impact upon her entire career and life.
After a stint in Hawaii working for the Dolphin Language Institute, she returned to the Rogue Valley as a swim coach for the Southern Oregon Swim Association in Ashland, then began work on a graduate degree at Southern Oregon State College (SOSC). While coaching full time, she worked on a master’s in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on physical education, sports psychology and nutrition, graduating in 1983. “I loved my SOSC experience. Shakespeare, coaching swimming, participating in small classes all while nestled in the Siskiyou Mountains, was the perfect setting for me to thrive. Caring faculty helped create a great life trajectory for me,” said Cynthia.
She moved to Reno, Nevada, upon graduation at SOSC and worked as a swimming instructor locally then was hired by the University of Nevada, Reno as the head swimming and diving coach and as an adjunct member of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation until 1989.
In 1989, she began a 10 year stay at Linfield College in McMinnville, where she served as the Head Coach of the Women’s and Men’s Swimming programs and also was the Assistant Athletic Director of Women’s Sports and became a tenured Associate Professor of Health, Human Performance and Athletics. And once again, while working full time and running a collegiate swimming program, she worked on her Ed.D. in educational leadership: postsecondary education – administration at Portland State University, graduating in 1996.
From 1998 to 2012 she held a number of positions including Department Chair, College of Education, Educational Leadership and Associate and interim Dean of the Graduate School at Idaho State University in Pocatello. In 2012 she joined Dickinson State University in North Dakota and served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. She later served two years as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado.
While continuing to focus on her academic career, Cynthia was also a two-time Fulbright awardee. She spent a year in the Republic of Malta (2011-2012) on a Fulbright Scholar award, and more recently, a month in the Kingdom of Jordan on a Fulbright Specialist award serving as an educational leadership consultant to Jordan University of Science and Technology.
She has conducted research, published and presented locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Her record of scholarly achievement includes two books, a chapter in an international adult learning compendium, over 30 refereed and/or limited review publications/proceedings, numerous invited publications, over 40 regional/national/international presentations, and well over 100 local/university and community presentations. Her 2002 book, More Than a Game: One Woman’s Fight for Gender Equity in Sport, was recognized with the Phi Kappa Phi Bookshelf Award in October 2002. Likewise, her 2012 book: Getting There: Women’s Journeys to and through Educational Attainment, received the Phi Kappa Phi Bookshelf Award, summer 2013.
In July of 2018, Dr. Pemberton was named the President of Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) in Lewiston, Idaho. With an enrollment of 3,800 undergraduate students, the school has a small demographic and is rural in nature. For 129 years, it was a regional school for producing teachers but she is leading LCSC into the future. “For over a century, we were a normal school specifically focused on training teachers and we had no graduate programs,” she said. With a tireless effort lobbying the Idaho legislature in Boise, legislators changed the statute, got the Governor’s signature and in the near future, LCSC will offer graduate programs. “I’m very proud of our work here and in many ways, my leadership experience in Lewiston is a full-circle culmination of the beginning of my collegiate experience at Willamette and Southern Oregon. And now I’m president of a small rural college where the class sizes are small and the professors are caring and compassionate about their students,” she added. “I am committed to the intimate and connected experience that we have here for students at Lewis-Clark State!”
Learn more: Lewis-Clark State College