Christine Kajikawa Wilkinson, PhD
Living Legacy 2017
Dr. Christine Kajikawa Wilkinson has been a trailblazer since her youth. Born in Utah during WWII, she grew up in Tempe with parents who taught her by example the value of both education and engagement in community service. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Education with distinction from ASU, a Master of Arts in Education, Counseling Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration from ASU.
She was very active as an undergraduate student leader at Arizona State University and in 1966 won the Outstanding Female Graduate Award. Several years later, ASU called and asked if she would be interested in coming back as a professional to rebuild student activities on the campus. The University had just finished a yearlong expansion of the Memorial Union. Students were not allowed in the building during the many months of construction and as a result community spirit and many of the student activities had dropped off. Christine was excited to engage with the students and since she was close to their age she found the work fun and exciting. That was the beginning of her illustrious career at ASU.
During the intervening years Christine has worked alongside four university Presidents and held eighteen different positions. A tenured faculty member in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Wilkinson served as interim athletic director three times and as vice president of student affairs for 13 years. She was the first minority female Vice President at ASU, breaking glass ceilings and walls for women of color who followed after her. She said of the challenges she faced as a female usually working in an all-male setting, “I think, for the most part, just the sheer fact I was female and usually in an all-male setting on a regular basis, that alone was sometimes something to contend with. Where I would speak up, make a statement, and it would be kind of like passed over, and ten minutes later a male colleague would say the same thing and it was just a brilliant idea. So you have to learn particular strategies to deal with that.”
Christine currently holds not only the title of Senior Vice President and Secretary of ASU, but is also President and CEO of the ASU Alumni Association and managing Director of ASU Trustees, making her the highest ranking female executive at the University. As Senior Vice President and Secretary she is responsible for regents’ relations, commencement, convocation, the University’s special guests, advisory councils to the University President and representing the University in the larger community. As CEO and President of the ASU Alumni Association she provides leadership, direction and oversight for the association and the more than 358,000 alumni worldwide.
Christine’s professional career has been dedicated to making ASU an outstanding institution. In her various roles as administrator, teacher, athletic director and community leader she has mentored and influenced thousands of students. Her focus has been on individuals, whether preparing students as future leaders or developing staff and helping them to see that their roles are important in advancing the university. She has initiated new programs, departments and offices. In nearly every position she has been in she has either been first in that position or the first one to develop the whole program.
In addition to her work at the University, Christine has championed causes and served on the Boards of dozens of non-profits and community organizations including Valley of the Sun United Way, the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Arizona. She served as the chair of the local board of the American Red Cross, chaired the national convention, and also served two terms on the National Board of Governors for the Red Cross. She has served on boards that have supported the development of and advocacy for women, something she believes is extremely important. She is a founding member of East Valley Women and is a member of the Arizona Business Leadership association, Arizona Women’s Forum, and ASU Women & Philanthropy. She has also served on a number of boards that relate to health care.
Among the many awards she has received are the University’s Award of Merit, the Alumni Achievement Award, the CASE Crystal Apple Award and named the Valley Leadership 2009 Woman of the Year. In 2012 she was selected as one of Arizona’s 48 Most Intriguing Women for the Arizona Centennial Legacy Project. In 2014 she received the Tempe Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year and has received additional community awards for leadership and service.
“We all hope to make a difference,” Wilkinson said. “In my case, it happens to be through education. Along the way, you also hopefully develop and guide staff and colleagues in reaching institutional as well as personal goals.”