New CEOs

Patrena Benton Elliott will serve as the next president of Halifax Community College in North Carolina, effective January 1. She is currently vice president of instruction and student support services and chief academic and student affairs officer at Robeson Community College (North Carolina), where she helped to establish new degree programs, such as medical sonography, and formed lasting partnerships for the college.

Elliott also served on a task force that saw the college through the pandemic and helped lead the college to new heights. Previously, Elliott was dean of academic affairs and operations at South University in North Carolina.

Charles Lepper has been selected as the new president of Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan. He is currently vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) in Utah, a position he has held since 2015.

Among Lepper’s achievements in his current position are implementing the SLCC Promise, co-leading the college’s implementation of guided pathways and increasing concurrent enrollment/dual credit by more than 12% over a two-year period.

Under his leadership, SLCC also established the state’s second Dream Center, a Gender and Sexuality Student Resources Center to support women and the LGBTQIA+ community and expand the college’s community garden and food pantry programs.

Previously, Lepper was vice president for student affairs at Tidewater Community College in Virginia and held several leadership roles at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana between 2004 and 2013, including assistant vice president for student development services and director of faculty development and student life initiatives.

Tiffany Sanderson, secretary of South Dakota’s Department of Education, has been named the next president of Lake Area Technical College, as of January 1.

As state education secretary, Sanderson’s portfolio includes K-12 education, higher education and workforce development. Her previous post was senior policy advisor to Gov. Kristi Noem and director of career and technical education (CTE) in the state technical college system.

Prior to joining the governor’s office in 2019, Sanderson led South Dakota’s CTE system at the state education department, including the four technical colleges. She also helped to lead key efforts such as the Build Dakota Scholarship, the state’s reduced-tuition dual-credit program, and funding for technical colleges and regional CTE facilities.


Lionel R. Bordeaux, the long-time president of Sinte Gleska University (SGU) in South Dakota who was known as the “dean of the Tribal College Movement,” passed away on November 16 at age 82. SGU is a four-year tribal university, chartered by the Sicangu Lakota Tribe, that also offers associate degrees and certificate programs.

Serving as president of the college since 1973, Bordeaux (Wakinyan Wanbli or “Thundering Eagle”) was the longest-serving college or university president in the U.S., according to a release from the university. He oversaw the expansion and development of Sinte Gleska College into the first tribal university. Throughout his career at the university, Bordeaux worked to strengthen Lakota culture and language, and he also advocated locally, regionally and nationally for Native peoples’ educational sovereignty over curriculum and a tribally based accreditation body rooted in spirituality and traditional laws, according to the release.

Bordeaux had a long-established history in the Tribal College Movement. He was a founder of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, which serves as the voice of the 35 tribal colleges and universities in Washington, D.C. He was also a founder of the American Indian College Fund, the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium and the Tribal College Journal.

Bordeaux also received presidential appointments to serve on the National Advisory Council on Indian Education and the Advisory Board of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities. In addition, he co-chaired the historic White House Conference on Indian Education.

“President Bordeaux was the heart — the drumbeat — of the Tribal College Movement,” said Carrie Billy, president and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. “We feel his loss profoundly, but his songs and stories will never leave us. His legacy will endure for generations and that gives us peace and hope for the future of the Tribal College Movement.”

While working on his dissertation at the University of Minnesota, Stanley Red Bird, Sr., founder of Sinte Gleska College, approached Bordeaux and told him traditional healers had held spiritual ceremonies and directed Red Bird to seek out Bordeaux, who knew the tribal language and history of the Sicangu Lakota people. They asked him to withdraw from his doctoral studies and return to the Rosebud reservation to serve as president of the college. He did and has served as its president since 1973.

Lionel’s career included working for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which he credited with giving him experience working with various federal agencies that proved helpful later in his career in pursuing passage of federal legislation to support tribal colleges and universities.

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.