Acting president

Rachel Rosenthal, a former president of Folsom Lake College (FLC) in California, will serve as the California college’s interim president, effective September 1. She served as the college’s second president from 2012 to 2016, when she retired. Prior to FLC, Rosenthal was assistant superintendent and vice president of instruction at Sierra College in California.

CEO transitions

Whitney Yamamura, president of California’s Folsom Lake College, will leave the college as of August 31 after serving in the position for more than five years. Yamamura was the third president in the college’s 18-year history. He has served for more than three decades in the Los Rios Community College District.
Over his tenure at Folsom Lake, Yamaura guided the college through the update of its facilities master plan — which included the planning and design of the college’s new science building — supported the implementation of new placement standards, and expanded the Rancho Cordova Promise program, among other achievements.

CEO retirements

John Dempsey, who has led North Carolina’s Sandhills Community College (SCC) for 33 years, plans to retire on December 31.

Dempsey began his career in higher education in 1974 as a professor and dean at The College of Charleston (South Carolina), later becoming president of Belmont Abbey College (North Carolina). Earlier in his life, he served in Vietnam and worked in the Executive Office of the President during Jimmy Carter’s administration. In 1989, Dempsey was named the second president of Sandhills.

Over Dempsey’s more than three decades as president, SCC has grown from a seven-building campus to a 20-building campus across two counties. Workforce training and university preparedness under his leadership now include nursing, engineering, childhood education, law enforcement and training in a host of other professions. In 2020, the college introduced the innovative Fast Track program, an all-online, self-paced program that allows students to register anytime for classes, which start about every three weeks.

Dempsey is known for his inspired innovation through scholarship, philanthropy and community engagement – all to promote lifelong learning and enriched human experience. He is especially noted for his innovative approaches to fundraising, particularly in the area of student aid. His mantra is to try to have every student graduate Sandhills — which doesn’t participate in the federal student loan program — with no college debt.

“When we hired John Dempsey in 1989, we quickly discovered that we had picked an extraordinary leader with amazing fundraising experience,” noted George Little, the long-serving SCC board chair. “In a college with only three board chairs and two presidents in its almost 60-year existence, Dr. Dempsey has been led in his efforts by a board of trustees of exceptional quality. John was the man who led this college to new heights and national stature.”

An avid golfer, Dempsey is a member of Golf Magazine’s panel, which selects the top 100 golf courses in the world.

H. Jeffrey Rafn, who has served as president of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) since 1997, has announced plans to retire effective July 1, 2023.

Under Rafn’s leadership, the college has transformed into a team-based, customer-focused organization, and enrollments have increased by 62%. He led two successful referenda that created industry-leading facilities in several academic areas, including health sciences and advanced manufacturing.

“Dr. Rafn’s vision and commitment to student success has been an integral part in the economic vitality and growth of our community,” said Cathy Dworak, chair of NWTC’s board of trustees. “He has been an inspirational leader, and it has been an honor to work with him. I am excited for him on this next chapter.”

More recently, the college, under Rafn’s leadership, has focused on expanding transfer agreements. At NWTC, 50% of transfer students transfer within the University of Wisconsin (UW) system, and 50% of those students transfer to UW-Green Bay. NWTC and UW-Green Bay have partnered in creating more than 20 programs to transfer agreements.

Rafn received the 2015 Pacesetter of the Year award from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations and has been a finalist for several American Association of Community Colleges Awards of Excellence. In 2021, NWTC received the 2021 Leah Meyer Austin Award from Achieving the Dream. The national prize is given annually to a college in the ATD Network that shows sustained, substantive improvement in student outcomes; narrowing and closing of equity gaps; and outstanding commitment to equity-centered cultural change at their institution.

Prior to NWTC, Rafn was state commissioner of the New Hampshire Community Technical College System. He also served for 18 years as an administrator and educator in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

After retirement, Rafn said he plans to continue giving back to the community, focusing his efforts on housing issues, disaster relief and education.

Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Community College (HCC) in Massachusetts, has announced that she plans to retire from the college after the 2022-2023 academic year. Her last day will be July 14, 2023. Royal started at HCC in January 2017. She is the fourth president in the 75-year history of HCC and is the first woman and first openly gay and first bi-racial person to serve as its president.

Among Royal’s milestones at the college:

  • Working collaboratively to develop HCC’s first strategic plan.
  • Investing in programs to support students’ basic needs, such as creating the President’s Student Emergency Fund to provide grants to student facing immediate financial needs.
  • Opening Homestead Market, the first campus store in Massachusetts to accept SNAP benefits.
  • Partnering with Holyoke Housing Authority to help students find affordable housing.
  • Launching the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Program, to provide HCC student-parents access to free, short-term care for their children.
  • Opening the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute.

In a press release from the college, Royal, 50, said she is not leaving for another job and has no specific plans.

“One of the greatest responsibilities of any leader is to know when and why to lead an institution and also when and why it is time to leave it,” she said. “I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting about this life change, and my ‘why’ is simple and straightforward: I am seeking expansion and personal growth in the form of new learnings and experiences and an opportunity to pause and enjoy the present moments.”

Before coming to HCC, Royal was provost and vice president of academic affairs at Inver Hills Community College in Minnesota. Prior to that, she was associate vice president for e-learning and innovation at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and director of technology-assisted learning for the School of Graduate and Continuing Education at Marist College in New York.


Jennifer Flatt is now vice president of student services at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC). She joined the college in 2019 as dean of learning effectiveness and early college, as well as dean of NWTC’s Marinette Campus.

Liesl Jones is now vice president of academic affairs at Suffolk County Community College in New York. She comes from Baltimore City Community College where she developed policies to increase student success and developed bridges between workforce development, prior learning experiences and college credit.

Kelly Peloquin is the new athletics director at Bronx Community College in New York. She had served previously as assistant director since 2018.

Joe Whalen is now vice president for talent, inclusion and workplace culture and also chief human resources officer at Howard Community College in Maryland. He previously served as vice president of human resources at Everett Community College in Washington state, leading workforce strategies for the college’s four campuses.

At Harford Community College in Maryland, Kim Davis is the new dean of arts and humanities, and Marc Minnick is the new dean of business and applied technology. Davis most recently was associate dean of communication, arts and humanities at Oakland Community College, a five-campus Michigan institution. Minnick previously was provost and vice president of academic affairs at Manor College in Pennsylvania.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.