Excerpted from Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences’ Annual Impact Report 2017-2018.)
How can we try to stimulate and foster Yakima culturally, so people want to come here, start businesses, live here and start families?” asked Russ Wilkinson, Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Wilkinson Corporation. “In the coming years, that’s something I’m really excited about. Fostering continued growth here in Yakima.”
If you sit down for any sort of meaningful conversation with Wilkinson, you’ll likely hear his answer to those complex questions mentioned repeatedly: strong families and an entrepreneurial spirit.
From his office in the Wilkinson Family of Companies headquarters, sitting before a work-loaded desk and framed by a massive family portrait hanging on the wall behind him, which shows Wilkinson smiling beside his large family in front of their dazzling home, he highlighted those principles over and over again.
Strong family. Entrepreneurial spirit.
“If you have those two key foundational pieces,” Wilkinson repeatedly explained, “you will succeed.” As he learned more about Pacific Northwest University—a new medical school putting those key foundational pieces to use right in his home of Yakima—Wilkinson stepped forward as a founding member of PNWU’s President’s Circle of Champions, pledging his multi-year support to the burgeoning Health Sciences University.
Wilkinson quickly learned the role of a hard day’s work on success as he helped in his family’s orchard in the Yakima Valley. He recalls coming home from school from the time he was six-years-old to work in the orchard. His experiences from the labor-intensive work sparked his own entrepreneurial spirit. “I knew very quickly that farm work wasn’t for me,” he explained with a laugh. “I had to come up with something else, and I decided to focus on my education.”
In the years since, Wilkinson has worked with his family to found and build Wilkinson Corporation (WC) in 1991. Today, thanks to a strong family and an undeniable entrepreneurial spirit, WC’s total transactional volume is nearly $2 billion.
Rather than resting on the laurels of his own success, Wilkinson is now focused on turning the lessons he’s learned into sustainable success for his beloved hometown of Yakima.
When Dr. Lloyd Butler approached him with the idea of starting a Health Sciences University, Wilkinson knew right away that something big could be on the horizon for Yakima.
“I was so excited about the possibility of those dynamics beginning to form with PNWU,” he said. “With a successful university, I knew that we could have great students, faculty and staff coming into Yakima. The opportunity for our community to rub shoulders with these students, who have a different perspective on the world, offers such a positive dynamic for our community.”
“If you have the two key foundational bases—strong families and an entrepreneurial spirit—you’ll succeed. In Yakima, we have a tremendous base of great families to build with. By fostering the entrepreneurial spirit and creating a city that people want to stay in and create new business in, we too will be successful. Having PNWU here, and having the people the University attracts—people who have a vision for the future and what’s possible—we now have an opportunity to turbo-charge this region. What keeps young people? It’s innovative ideas. This Valley is going to continue moving in the right direction, and I think PNWU has the potential to be a key leader in Yakima’s future. I can’t wait to see what the PNWU’s continued efforts are going to do for Yakima in the years to come.”