Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton to Retire

Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton to Retire as President of Cuyahoga Community College

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CLEVELAND – Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, who has guided unprecedented institutional growth and development during 21 years as president of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), announced today that she will retire, effective June 30, 2013.

Dr Jerry Sue Thornton -- color 2011 (high res)
Cuyahoga Community College, currently marking a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary, was Ohio’s first community college and remains its largest.  Dr. Thornton became its third president on Jan. 2, 1992, after serving six years as president of Lakewood Community College (now known as Century College) in White Bear Lake, Minn. She began her community college career in 1971as an English faculty member at Triton College in a Chicago suburb and remained there until she left in1985 from her position as the dean of Academic Affairs.

“With the continued support and confidence of the Board of Trustees, the College Foundation and the people of Cuyahoga County, it has been my distinct privilege to work with our outstanding faculty and staff to promote student success in collaboration with our community partners,” said Thornton.

“Together, we have steadily expanded affordable and accessible opportunities for student achievement and success and to meet the ever-evolving needs of our region’s employers.  I am extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish and believe this is the appropriate time for me to bring closure to my tenure and for the College to begin the transition to new leadership.  We have recently launched several major academic initiatives, implemented new student success strategies and completed many major capital projects.”

Jerry L. Kelsheimer, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said, “Dr. Thornton has worked tirelessly for more than two decades to shape Cuyahoga Community College as truly a place ‘where futures begin.’ With tremendous momentum in place and a new strategic plan now in its final stages of development, she will leave her successor with a strong foundation upon which to continue to build.”

A search advisory committee, which will include trustees as well as faculty, staff and community representation, will be chaired by Trustee David W. Whitehead, immediate past president of the Board. Dr. Carol A. Cartwright, retired president of Kent State University and Bowling Green State University, will be among its members.  The Board will also engage an executive-search firm to conduct a national search for the new President.

“We have big shoes to fill but are well positioned to attract outstanding candidates,” said Kelsheimer, who will be an ad hoc member of the committee.  Kelsheimer noted that during Thornton’s tenure:

·         Enrollment has grown 40 percent – from 23,000 students on three campuses to more than 32,000 students on four campuses.  In addition, more than 20,000 individuals are enrolled in workforce training programs at Tri-C’s Corporate Colleges, Unified Technology Center and Advanced Technology Training Center.

·         The College has maintained the lowest student tuition in Northeast Ohio and the second-lowest in the state.

·         The curriculum has grown to more than 1,000 credit courses in more than 140 career and technical programs each semester, as well as nearly 800 distance-learning courses and nearly 400 hybrid courses.  Tri-C has focused heavily on programs to foster student success, and Technical Learning Centers on each campus provide access to computers and other technology for all students.

·         Major new construction and renovation projects totaling approximately $300 million have enhanced access to post-secondary education.  Key projects have included the WestshoreCampus in Westlake; two Corporate College campuses; the Brunswick University Center; the Advanced Technology Training Center and the acquisition of the Visiting Nursing Association (VNA) building adjacent to the Metropolitan campus.  The Eastern Campus has doubled in size with two new facilities while the Metropolitan and Western Campuses have each had two new buildings or additions.   Reflecting the College’s commitment to environmental sustainability, much of the recent construction has been either LEED Silver or Gold Certified.

·         Tri-C has become a major economic factor in Cuyahoga County, employing more than 3,000 faculty and staff and adding more than $115 million in additional labor and non-labor income to the region.

.         Cuyahoga County voters have supported five countywide ballot issues.  As the revenue and budget increased from $123 million to approximately $330 million, the College has maintained a strong bond rating second only to The Ohio State University and regularly received financial reporting awards from the Government Finance Officers Association.

·         Strong partnerships with PlayhouseSquare and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum have enabled the College to present Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland and other cultural arts programs to the community and resulted in the Rock Hall locating its Archives and Library at the new Center for Creative Arts on the Metropolitan Campus.

·         The Cuyahoga Community College Foundation endowment has grown from $1.3 million in 1992 to more than $38 million to support student scholarships and programs as an investment in student success.

Throughout her career, Thornton has played a pivotal role in the advancement of community colleges from the early junior and technical colleges.  She served on the Board of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), the League for Innovation Board, RC2020 (Urban Community College Board) and others.  Recently, she co-chaired the AACC 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges and the State of Ohio Commission on Higher Education Funding.

Locally, Thornton serves on the boards of PlayhouseSquare, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, United Way of Greater Cleveland, University Hospitals Health System and other institutions.  On the corporate level, she is a Director of American Greetings, Inc.; Applied Industrial, Inc.; and RPM International Inc.

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