DeRionne Pollard, president of Maryland’s Montgomery College, is a recipient of the 2017 Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award. As the only community college president selected, Pollard — who also serves on the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) board of directors — was recognized as one of seven “exceptional American college and university presidents,” according to Carnegie. Each winner also receives $500,000 in support of academic initiatives.

The award recognizes educators who, in addition to fulfilling their administrative and managerial roles with dedication and creativity, demonstrate vision and an outstanding commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, the liberal arts, equal opportunity, the development of major interdisciplinary programs, international engagement, and the promotion of strong ties between their institutions and their local communities.

“I am so happy to congratulate Dr. Pollard on this prestigious honor,” said AACC President Walter Bumphus said. “She is a champion for community colleges and is well-deserving of this recognition. Her leadership is strategic and focused as evidenced by her notable achievements in student retention and completion.”

Glen Gabert last week celebrated 25 years as president of Hudson County Community College (HCCC) in New Jersey. He is the college’s longest-serving CEO. Under Gabert’s leadership, HCCC has become an award-winning institution that is student- and community-centered, and focused on fostering understanding and attaining success

“Glen Gabert transformed Hudson County Community College from a deeply distressed entity to an institution of first choice for local residents seeking a higher education,” HCCC Board Chair William J. Netchert said in a statement. “Our board is proud of what we have achieved in working with Dr. Gabert; for the people of Hudson County – and most especially our students – it has been life-changing.”


Gordon F. May, president of Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) in Maryland, plans to retire from the college next summer, at the end of the current academic year. May joined the college as its CEO in 2014 and was instrumental in stabilizing BCCC at a critical time. He has amassed a record of service and accomplishments on behalf of students, the BCCC service area and workforce development initiatives that are vitally important to the job prospects of city residents.

“It has been the opportunity of my lifetime to serve the citizens of Baltimore City and our state in restoring the promise of community college to every student we serve,” May said. “Over the last three years, I have been humbled by the opportunity extended to me by this community to make such a difference in people’s lives, and I believe we have made a difference as our constituents have looked to us for their ‘new beginning.’ For me, this was no less a new beginning and I have grown and learned right alongside our students.”

May previously served for 27 years at Michigan’s Oakland Community College, including 11 years as campus president. There, he led a five-year, $23-million campus facilities master plan; established partnerships that fueled the accelerated nursing degree; forged relationships with city officials; and launched a community assembly to garner employee input on issues and decisions.

Lawrence Nespoli, president of New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC), has announced that he plans to retire in January. In his position, Nespoli works with trustees and presidents throughout New Jersey to provide statewide leadership and advocacy for the state’s 19 community colleges. Among his accomplishments while heading NJCCC, Nespoli helped to create NJ STARS (Student Tuition Assistance Rewards Scholarship) program, which provides full community college scholarships to high school students who graduate in the top 15 percent of their class. Students who complete an associate degree with at least a “B” average are then eligible for junior and senior year scholarships at New Jersey’s four-year colleges and universities.

Nespoli also teaches in Rowan University’s Doctorate Program in Community College Leadership, and previously held several campus- and state-level positions in Maryland and Pennsylvania. He also has served in numerous national community college leadership positions, including the AACC board of directors, AACC’s 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges and the College Board’s Community College Advisory Panel.

“It has been a great blessing and privilege to serve New Jersey’s community colleges for the past 27 years,” he said in an email to stakeholders. “And it has been a special honor to work with so many extraordinary trustees, presidents and other campus leaders over these many years.”

Marilyn Schlack, president of Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) in Michigan and the first female college president in the state, plans to retire. She came to the college in 1974 to serve as an associate dean and later became executive dean/dean of instruction. In 1982, she was named president.

Under her leadership, the college established a strong presence in downtown Kalamazoo, built a new Kalamazoo Valley Museum and created a business-education-technology park called The Groves Campus. In 2013, KVCC announced a partnership with Bronson Healthcare and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to develop a campus focused on wellness and food sustainability. In 2015, Schlack served on a blue-ribbon revenue panel tasked with exploring revenue options to address the city’s structural budget imbalance.

“When considering some of our successes and initiatives that have taken shape over the years, it is most encouraging to view them as a sincere effort to help students succeed through better programs and services,” she said in statement announcing her retirement. “These efforts have been inspired by the clear board direction that we must cater to non-traditional students, working adults with families, and young people wishing to learn while dealing with difficult circumstances. It has been KVCC’s commitment to building upon this philosophy that has established a tradition of caring.”


Robert Luther, who served as president of Lake Land College (LLC) in Illinois from 1988 until his retirement in 2006, passed away on September 13. He was the college’s longest-serving president. In 2011, Luther was elected to the college’s board of trustees, where he served a six-year term and was re-elected earlier this year.

“During his tenure as president, Dr. Luther fostered a culture of innovation and student-centeredness, strengthened the college’s financial foundation, greatly enhanced the beautiful campus we have today and brought national acclaim to our academic excellence,” said LLC President Josh Bullock. “He continued his passion and support for Lake Land while serving on our board. His wise guidance and keen insights will be missed greatly by the college community.”

Under Luther’s leadership, Lake Land emerged as a leader in technology, new programming, enrollment growth and innovation. Luther’s vision for growth and excellence led LLC to win numerous state and federal awards in these areas. All the while, he continued to foster a community college culture established by his predecessors in which students always came first.

Innovation was one of the keystones of Luther’s presidency. Facing dire financial times, he led faculty and staff to develop new academic courses and programs, create revenue-generating programs and secure funding sources. Innovation also led Lake Land to be one of the first colleges in the state to develop a core value program centered on student success.

A Charleston native, Luther previously served as president of Columbia-Greene Community College in New York, and acting president and vice president of Carl Sandburg College in Illinois.


Dawn Kirstaetter will serve as vice president for advancement and strategic partnerships at Baltimore City Community College in Maryland. She is Baltimore’s former deputy mayor of health, human services and education and also served as chief operating officer for Associated Black Charities.

Wendy Parks is now director of public relations and communications at College of DuPage in Illinois. She previously served at the Chicago Housing Authority as director of communications and marketing and public information officer.

At the College of Southern Maryland, Bill Bessette is the new executive director of public safety and preparedness and Carmen Phelps is executive director of institutional equity and diversity. Previously, Bessette was director of safety and security at Hopkinsville Community College in Kentucky. Phelps has held similar positions at other higher education institutions, including Northern Arizona University, Temple University and University of Toledo, among others.

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