AACC honors this year’s select leaders

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) on Thursday honored the recipients of its 2020 Leadership Award and the Harry S. Truman Award, as well as an award for leadership in diversity presented by a trade publication.

The annual awards ceremony is held during the AACC annual convention, which was canceled this year due to the pandemic. So the association on Thursday held a special virtual presentation to honor five individuals who have had a substantial impact on the sector.

Myrtle E.B. Dorsey, Augustine Gallego and E. Ann McGee received the AACC Leadership Award. Eduardo Padrón was awarded the AACC Truman Award. Curtis Ivery received the Diverse Champion award from Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine. 

The AACC Leadership Award, an annual tradition since 1982, is presented to individuals whose accomplishments and professional contributions to the community college field have been outstanding and continuous. Also awarded since 1982, the Truman Award is given to someone who has had a major, positive impact on community colleges. It is named for President Truman who commissioned a study on higher education in 1947 where the term “community college” was first used widely. Past recipients include U.S. presidents, cabinet members, first ladies, members of Congress, mayors, researchers, foundation leaders and others. 

Below are brief bios on this year’s awards recipients. 

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Myrtle E.B. Dorsey is director and professor of practice of the Community College Leadership Program at Morgan State University in Maryland. She has served in higher education for more than 40 years, entering the community college sector in 1981 when she was hired as director of special services at Howard Community College in Maryland. She was at the college for 10 years, moving to assistant to the dean of students and then associate dean of student services. In 1991, Dorsey became vice president for student affairs at Baltimore City Community College, and then vice president for student affairs and institutional advancement at Georgia Perimeter College. Later she was named executive vice president at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

In 2002, Dorsey became chancellor of Baton Rouge Community College in Louisiana, which opened in 1998. She successfully led the college in receiving full accreditation in 2004 and again in 2009. Dorsey developed the planning and budgeting system that included faculty, staff and students. For that work, she was named a 2008 Bellwether finalist. In 2011, Dorsey became chancellor of the St. Louis Community College District. Aside from leading in strategic planning, budgeting, fundraising and facilities planning, she also focused on increasing student retention and graduation rates. 

Since 2014, Dorsey has facilitated the AACC John E. Roueche Future Leaders Institute. In 2018 she joined Morgan State University’s Community College Leadership Program. 

Dorsey served as AACC board chair in 2011-2012. Also in 2012 she received the Saint Louis Empowerment Foundation Women in Leadership Award and the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society’s Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction.

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Augustine Gallego is chancellor emeritus of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD). His higher education career began at the University of California, Davis, as associate dean of student affairs and associate director of admissions. In 1976, he moved to SDCCD, where he served as dean, provost and vice chancellor before becoming chancellor in 1990. 

During his tenure, Gallego led the development of many innovative programs, including public and private partnerships to more effectively and efficiently serve students and the community. He also led efforts to increase community college transfers to universities. In 2003, Gallego founded the Salzburg Global Seminar’s International Studies Program for community college students and academic staff. The program is now an independent organization, the Global Citizenship Alliance. 

Gallego retired from SDCCD in 2004 but didn’t leave higher education. From 2004 to 2014, he worked on the Community College Initiative through Achieving the Dream and served as a college coach. Over his career he’s served on myriad education boards, including as AACC board chair, and also served on the National Governor’s Association taskforce on competitiveness, as well as the College Board’s National Commission on Community Colleges.

In 2004, he received the Harry Buttimer Distinguished Administrator Award from the Association of Community College Administrators.  

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E. Ann McGee is president emerita of Seminole State College of Florida. Her community college journey began when she enrolled at St. Petersburg Junior College at age 16. She later served at the helm of Seminole State for 22 years. During McGee’s tenure, the college grew from a single campus into a dynamic state educational institution with four campuses and 30,000 students annually. The college offers 200 degrees and programs ranging from secondary education, industry certificates and associate degrees to seven bachelor’s degrees. 

As the college expanded, so did opportunities for students. McGee worked with the Central Florida Auto Dealers Association to bring a new automotive training facility to the college, and secured funding for development of the Center for Public Safety and the Partnership Center. In 2018, the college opened a $25-million student center, which carries her name, to provide a one-stop shop for students to access a range of services. 

McGee also has been a strong advocate for leadership development, participating with senior management in the Seminole State College Leadership Academy. For her work, she has received numerous accolades, including the 2013 James B. Greene Economic Development Award from the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission. In 2017, she was honored as a Business Leader of the Year by i4 Business magazine and as Woman of the Decade by the Orlando Business Journal.

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Eduardo Padrón, president emeritus of Miami Dade College (MDC), is a giant in higher education, recognized nationally and internationally for engineering a culture of innovation and success at the largest degree-granting institution in the U.S. He arrived in Florida in 1961 as a teenage refugee from Cuba, and later attended MDC. Padrón became a faculty member at MDC, and rose up the ranks to become president in 1995.

His work at the college has been hailed as a model of innovation in higher education. MDC enrolls and graduates more minorities than any other institution in the country, including the largest numbers of Hispanics and African-Americans. Under Padrón’s leadership, the college has received national recognition for its longstanding involvement with its urban community, its catalytic effect for social and economic change, and the marked difference the college has made in student access and success through pace-setting initiatives. 

In 2018, Padrón was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of America’s oldest and most prestigious organizations. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S. Internationally, Padrón’s accomplishments have been recognized by numerous nations and organizations, including the Republic of France, which named him Commandeur in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

Over his career, Padrón has served on several national commissions including the Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, National Science Foundation, National Governors Association, American Bar Association and Lumina Foundation. He continues to serve on a number of boards, including the Council on Foreign Relations and Achieving the Dream. 

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Curtis Ivery has served as chancellor of Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD) in Michigan since 1995. Over those 25 years, he has championed for student success and equity and has transformed the six-campus district into a national model. He spent his early years stabilizing the district. WCCCD grew from serving 7,000 students to serving nearly 70,000 annually. WCCCD is the largest urban community college district in the state, covering some 36 cities and townships, and 500 square miles. Its students are diverse, speaking some 50 different languages and coming from every walk of life.

But being the largest open-door urban institution means dealing with perennial issues that don’t necessarily affect other institutions.

“I’ve spent a lot of time explaining what it is to be an urban institution and to serve our population,” Ivery told Community College Daily in 2018.

One of Ivery’s signature projects has been WCCCD’s Institute for Social Progress, an urban studies and educational center, which produces research and publishes works with leading universities and applies them to programs aimed at promoting equity in higher education. The structural elements related to “concentrated poverty” are a topic of research, according to Ivery.

Last spring, the district’s board of trustees dedicated the new Dr. Curtis L. Ivery Central Educational Complex in downtown Detroit. 

Read more about Ivery in Diverse Issues.

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