The Westshore Campus of Cuyahoga Community College in Westlake was home to the school’s changing of the guard Thurs., June 27 as outgoing President Jerry Sue Thornton assumed President Emeritus status and new President Dr. Alex Johnson was sworn in.
“I thank you for your support of my presidential leadership and guidance you provided me as we worked to achieve the Mission, Vision and Values of Cuyahoga Community College,” said Dr. Thornton to the Board of Trustees and Chair Jerry L. Kelsheimer. “It has truly been a partnership and it is the reason that we, together, were able to succeed in accomplishing many of the institutional goals.”
In her 21 ½ -year tenure, Tri-C has grown from 23,000 to 32,000 students, added two corporate college sites, the Westlake campus and a center in Brunswick. Over $300 million in capital improvements to the college were achieved on her watch.
“I feel blessed that I have had a dream career at Cuyahoga Community College and retire from the presidential position with much satisfaction,” she said, wistfully referencing Board members, faculty and students as fellow “dream catchers.”
“We’re going to go with that,” said incoming President Dr. Alex Johnson of the ‘dream-catcher’ motif. But he quickly offered a down-to-earth strategic plan for the school’s continued growth and success.
“We are going to focus on four priorities right away,” he said.
1 – Access, opportunity and success for students with “completion as the emphasis,” he said, will remain as the school’s student-centric focus. Tri-C’s Westshore Campus alone has shown 100 percent growth in student program completion in its first three years.
2 – Community engagement. “Our students, our resources, our facilities are committed to the betterment of community,” said Dr. Johnson.
3 – Keeping tuition affordable. “We want to reduce the financial burdens students experience,” said Dr. Johnson.
4 – Evolve and sustain the positive image of Cuyahoga Community College.
“We will do these things in concert with our leadership, faculty and staff starting right away with a retreat we have scheduled for this month,” he added.
The appointment at Tri-C marks Dr. Johnson’s fourth community college presidency in a 35-year career, most recently as head of Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh. He also served as chancellor at Delgado Community College in New Orleans and as campus president of Tri-C’s Metropolitan Campus.
Dr. Johnson’s oath of office at the Tri-C Westshore campus exemplifies the relevancy of community-based education. Earlier in the meeting, Campus President Dr. J. Michael Thomson presented plans for building a second educational facility on the Westlake campus and predicted a future population of 7,000 students. He highlighted the success of the school since it opened, seeing 20 per cent student growth each term with a 57 per cent increase in program completion this year.
“We are very proud of getting students in, through and out with their degree or certificate,” said Dr. Thomson.