WSU has a rich history of research and service in the field of aging involving multiple academic departments and colleges.
In 2003-04, a group of scholars and partners from the community explored the desirability of folding the activities into a more formal framework that would expand, coordinate, and further develop these activities. Dr. James Rhatigan led this initiative, in partnership with Drs. Philip Gaunt and Charles Fox. Faculty members involved in the early discussions of an institute on aging at WSU included: Drs. Mary Corrigan, Louis Medvene, Michael Jorgensen, Steven Peters, Ruth Bohlken, Alex Chaparro, Michael Rogers, Matthew Shepherd, Ray Hull, Barbara Chaparro, and Laszlo Stumpfhauser.
In a presentation on January 25, 2005 to the university administration, 12 investigators (from Gerontology, Psychology, Engineering, Performing Arts, Exercise Physiology, Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Communications, and the Center for Physical Activity and Aging) spoke about their work in a broad range of areas related to prevention and lifestyle improvement for older adults. Also presenting was WSU-LINK, which seeks to facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships between the university and the community it serves. While these activities were impressive, it was agreed that a new organizational model providing better coordination for aging research activities was required. As a result, both Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research Dr. John Hutchinson, and President Donald Beggs gave their authorization for the creation of the new Regional Institute on Aging.
In 2006, the newly appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research Gary L. Miller, Ph.D. and Associate Vice President for Research J. David McDonald, Ph.D. joined the efforts and provided the support, along with Larksfield Place Retirement Community, to establish the Regional Institute on Aging. Teresa S. Radebaugh, Sc.D., was named the first Director, and the Institute was officially launched on April 4, 2007 at a formal ceremony held at the Eugene M. Hughes Metropolitan Complex. Alex Chaparro, Ph.D. took over as director in August 2015 and served until July 2017. Carryl Baldwin, Ph.D. serves as the RIA's current director.