A Toast to Six CCV Presidents

Presented by David Buchdahl, then Director of Institutional Research and Planning, aboard the cruise ship Ethan Allen, on the occasion of the dedication of the new CCV Winooski Learning Center.

June 4, 2010    

Just this morning, I was thinking that as someone who has worked for CCV since 1983 and has reported directly to four of the six past presidents here today, I might appropriate for me to say a few words about the contributions that each has made to the college.

So it’s been my pleasure to be thinking about these wonderful people for much of the day, and now my even greater pleasure to share some of these thoughts with all of you.

Because two of these presidents had already receded into the mythic past before I began my years at CCV, I thought I’d borrow some mythic metaphor to describe their special contributions to the creation of the college..

First of course, there’s Peter Smith, the founding president of CCV, whom we can now imagine as CCV’s Prometheus.  Prometheus, you may recall, molded the first human beings out of clay and is as close as the Greeks come to a creator God. Peter created CCV from the clay of his own Vermont roots, and we will never be able to thank him enough for the gift he gave to his native state and the way the college continues to give to each succeeding generation. A visionary, a dreamer – he did something that can only be done once, he began it all.

Then came  Myrna  Miller — maybe the most mythic of all CCV’s presidents- whom I  liken to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, and the arts – all of which she needed to establish CCV on solid footing during her tenure as president. Myrna came to CCV when the college was ambivalent about its self-identify – caught between a mission of transforming the world and being simply a college.  It was Myrna who said, we better concentrate on being a college which meant we better have a curriculum, we better have some normal looking degree programs, (not just the famous “individualized degree” that was the darling of CCV’s original founders); and we sure as hell better have some clear standards about what it means to earn a CCV degree.  Bravo! Myrna used her wisdom, her passion and her warrior skills to make all this happen.

And  here is where I stop with mythic references – for I started working at CCV in 1983, so came to know the next presidents as ordinary mortals – although each one extraordinary in their service and contributions to CCV.

I met Ken Kalb in April of 1983 on his first tour of the college when he began his tenure at CCV.

Whereas Myrna had said (in so many words), “We better look and act like a college if we’re going to be a college,” Ken said, we better act like an organization if we want to survive as one. Ken took a loose, fairly disorganized federation of sites and turned it (sometimes kicking and screaming) into a unified network of twelve sites.  He organized the budgets, wrote the strategic plan, signed the policies, and kept us all looking forward instead of day-dreaming about the past (or saving the world!)

After Ken made his surprise announcement of retirement at a President’s Council meeting on the anniversary of D-day in 1991, (he knew he was dropping a bomb), Mike Holland arrived from Oregon about 9 months later.

I took Mike on part of his tour of CCV sites – and I believe he was wondering if he could get back on a plane to Oregon.  Because unlike the building we dedicated earlier today in Winooski, the buildings that CCV occupied in 1992 (all still rentals, by the way) were a ragtag collection of storefronts and walk-ups – undersized, ill-furnished, poorly lit, handicapped inaccessible, and basically an embarrassment to this newcomer from Oregon where community colleges looked like real colleges with big campuses and lots of nice buildings. But he toughed it out, urging us to develop a new vision of CCV as a comprehensive community college, which for him meant a college with technical programs and serious workforce education.  To say he met a lot of resistance both internal and external would be a huge understatement, but if you look at CCV today, you see Mike’s vision fulfilled.

Barbara Murphy took over after Mike Holland departed (yes, back to Oregon), and she brought with her a commitment to developing leadership from within and promoting CCV with style and grace to Vermont communities statewide. It was through Barbara’s strong and steady presence that CCV finally gained acceptance among our peer colleges, including the development of our historic articulation agreement with the University of Vermont.   It was also during Barbara’s tenure that we saw CCV’s enrollment grow as never before.  A lot of this growth resulted from Barbara’s strong advocacy for CCV as a college for traditional age students, paving the way for our active engagement with high schools throughout Vermont. Here again there was resistance to this new direction for CCV, but Barbara was adamant that recent high school graduates deserved a seat at the CCV table just as much as anyone else.

When Barbara was named president of Johnson in 2001, Tim Donovan became CCVs next president.  Tim was uniquely qualified for the role. He had worked in the Vermont State College system 1980 and had reported directly to all the previous presidents. Hence, he brought an understanding of the college and the president’s job that guided us during his eight-year term.  Tim combined a love of technology, a love of finance, and most of all a love of people that made him in turn a president much loved by everyone at CCV.  Beginning back in 1994 when he reported to Mike Holland, Tim turned his attention to improving CCV’s physical plant, an effort that reached its culmination with the dedication of our fantastic new building in downtown Winooski.

And now Joyce Judy assumes the leadership of the college, again someone uniquely qualified, having served as provost for the since 2002 and as acting president for the past year.  From a site coordinator in Springfield, to dean of students, to provost, Joyce has been a steady presence at CCV and a trusted and respected colleague. All of us who know Joyce  have no doubt she will distinguish herself as one of the best presidents CCV has been fortunate to have.

So let’s raise our glasses to this remarkable group of leaders and visionaries, who all contributed so much in shaping this wonderful college into what it is today.  We thank you, we love you, and we wish you all the best.

One thought on “A Toast to Six CCV Presidents”

  1. So thoroughly enjoyed your article. It brought back a flood of really nice memories.
    Best wishes to you, “B”. St. Peter

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