Mike Holland

I was appointed as President of CCV in August of 1991, but returned to Oregon after only three years in the position.  As such, it is important to remind myself that my time with CCV was brief and long ago.  I hope what follows is reasonably accurate.

mikeHWhen I arrived in Vermont, I was surprised by most of what I discovered at CCV.  I marveled at how the prior Presidents, and the wonderful staff at CCV, had created a vibrant college with pure energy and imagination alone.  CCV received almost no money from the Vermont State Colleges yet served more than half of the entire system’s headcount enrollment, paid all employees starvation wages, operated out of derelict facilities, and was almost totally without modern technology (e.g., information technology).  Facing these challenges, the former Presidents had delivered a college that somehow worked and was actually hungry for an even larger role in Vermont’s higher education community.

I was also surprised by how CCV was viewed by some of the other leaders in Vermont’s higher education community.  Rather than encouraging CCV to expand its offerings to include recent high school graduates and employers, there was a determined effort to limit CCV’s work to low income adult Vermonters who would not otherwise have access to college.  The fear, often expressed explicitly, was that CCV’s statewide presence, low tuition, and entrepreneurial energy would tap into student markets that more traditional colleges wanted to preserve for their own recruitment efforts.   An aggressive CCV worried its sister institutions.

The final surprise I will mention was discovering the depth of CCV’s pool of talent.  I have worked in higher education for nearly 40 years, only three of these years in Vermont.  However, if asked to name the 20 most talented people with whom I have worked in 40 years, it would surprise many to see the number of Vermonters on my list.  I should also add that these wonderfully talented people were deeply attached to the mission and students of CCV; attached in a way that was striking then and remains a clear memory to this day.

So what did we actually do when I was there?

A)     The very first thing I wanted to improve was the physical spaces our staff and students were using.  With the exception of our site in Brattleboro, every other teaching site in Vermont was impossibly inadequate (and often unheated and unsafe).  Over the course of three years the college developed its first “built for CCV” building in St. Albans.  This was followed by another new building in Springfield.  Soon after Springfield, CCV was fortunate enough to partner with the State of Vermont and relocate its Burlington operations to a new state office building in downtown Burlington.  During my three years we also relocated our Rutland site, White River Junction site, Montpelier site, and were close to relocating the Bennington site.

With these improved sites came appropriate signage announcing our presence and presenting our brand in a way that was much more visible. (The current maple leaf logo made its earliest appearance at this time).  It is very important to note that none of these improvements would’ve happened without the leadership of Tim Donovan.   When I first arrived I immediately became aware of Tim’s talents and energy, and brought him into the central office to fully engage him in transformational projects, including these buildings.

B)      Beyond buildings, it was also necessary for CCV to enter the electronic age.  When I first arrived, sites communicated with each other by telephone or courier.  Desktop computing was rapidly being deployed throughout America and networked work sites were transforming the workplace.  CCV needed to join this movement and when a cash surplus appeared in the spring of 1992, we decided to take the plunge.  In a little over a month from the time the decision was made, every full time CCV employee had a desktop computer and the computers were all networked (another Tim Donovan miracle).

I still remember with amusement the conversation I had with one staff member about “why are we wasting money on these damn computers.”   Six months after installation we had a brief power outage at the Waterbury office and this same staff member was in the hallway saying he should go home because he couldn’t do any work without his computer.    While CCV wasn’t the only place transformed by personal, networked computers, the decentralized nature of the college magnified the importance of this step forward.

C)      While I was at CCV, we also began to rethink our degree attainment model.  In 1991 it was expected that all degree seeking students would engage in a deeply introspective, but staff guided, process to design an individualized degree plan.  Final plans might look very similar for any randomly selected group of students, but it was in the college’s DNA that every student had to walk their own path to arrive at a degree plan.

While it was difficult to argue with the good intentions of self-discovery, the degree attainment process was very labor intensive for staff and served as a kind of natural limitation on how much we could grow enrollment.  Sites with only two coordinators can only serve so many pioneers on the path to self-awareness.   CCV did not complete this process while I was there, but the rethinking and reimagining of the curriculum had started.  And, with typical CCV concern for its students and its culture, it was critical that the transformation leave intact important student accountability elements.   Barbara Murphy, serving then as CCV’s Academic Dean, was a masterful guide as this difficult work began.

D)     When I came to CCV I was struck by how modest our efforts were to serve employers in the State of Vermont.  Our price structure and flexibility were advantages that, to my mind, ought to be attractive to businesses that needed customized training for workers.  I soon learned that the VSC was not terribly excited about CCV becoming ambitious in its outreach to employers.  The concern was that an active, inexpensive CCV option for employers might have a negative impact on the traditional role of Vermont Technical College.  CCV and VTC never did work out “rules of the road” while I was at CCV, but I was proud of the fact that CCV began to be more assertive and ambitious in its work with business and industry and that today its workforce role is robust and valued in Vermont.

A short tale to close, most of which is true:   When I was at CCV, Tim Donovan constantly bragged about this wonderful coordinator what worked in our Springfield site.   I finally got to meet this wonderful person whose name was (and is) Joyce Judy.  Tim was right in his talent assessment, and after being at CCV for several months, I noticed that Joyce did not have a Master’s degree.   The next time I saw Joyce I pulled her aside and said I thought she should complete her degree.  I told her she had limited prospects at CCV without the degree, and unlimited prospects with the degree.  A short time later, Joyce completed a Master’s degree program.  I wonder what became of her.

It was my honor to serve as CCV’s President from 1991 through 1994.  The wonderful work of the college, and the unbelievably good people who worked for the college, changed me more than anything I did to change the college.   I will remember fondly, and forever, the time I spent at CCV and hope that I had a small positive role in its development.    My best wishes to all.

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.

Peter Smith

peterSmithCCV President 1970 – 1978

Listen to Peter talk about how CCV started.

CCV: In the beginning

We were at the New Careers conference in Stowe, spring, 1970.  And it became apparent quickly that there was a barrier between the needs of poor local learners in rural Vermont, like Head Start mothers, and any organized higher education. We agreed to write a grant to OEO and same was done, asking for $65,000 to conduct a study for a rural, community-based, community college that would take education to the learner, meet the learners’ needs, and do so with existing resources.

Lo and behold the grant came through in the fall of 1970 and the search for a Director began. I was on the planning group and kept arguing that, if we looked for a traditional approach to the task, we would get the same thing and would fail; because the traditional campus-based model wouldn’t work in rural Vermont.

At some point, one of the other team members said, “if you are so clear about this, why don’t you do it?”. So, at age 24+, and with very little experience behind me, I jumped in. I got the job and in retrospect, I think I was actually the best candidate which gives some sense of the pool. I quickly hired my top competition, John Chater, a community organizer from Cabot, and we launched.

Some atmospherics

  1. The governor, a conservative republican, Deane Davis had a son, Tom Davis (still alive and a former Leahy worker) who was a liberal democrat and head of the state OEO office. Otherwise, the grant might never have been accepted.
  2. Gov. Davis appointed Bill Craig, president of Johnson State and new to Vermont, also a founder of the Peace Corps with Sargeant Shriver, to chair the Vermont Regional Community College Commission (VR CCC). Craig was a stout defender of our play, as was Alan Weiss, superintendent of schools in Montpelier who succeeded Craig as Chair of the Commission. (Alan is still alive and lives in either Northfield or Montpelier.)
  3. The first office was in what is now the redone old Montpelier Tavern. At that point it was closed for demolition and we talked the landlord/owner into letting us string an electric cord into one of the second floor offices and there we started. After that, we went across the street into what became the Thrush Tavern on the first floor where we stayed for 2 years.

Initial research showed quickly that there were no operating models of a community-based community college that used the existing human, physical, and programmatic resources of the community to meet learners needs. So, with the commission’s approval, we chose to simply go get some learners and begin. If there were no examples, we had to create one.  And that is how and why we enrolled our first students in the late fall, early winter of 1970-71, some in Barton at the Parent Child Center and some in east Montpelier, at the newly opened U-32 High School.

This was a major tactical coup, as it turned out, because we began to create a Political constituency that a study never would have achieved. Also, at that point we were half way through the grant year and needed to get something done. We were tuition free, had an unpaid faculty, and were using community spaces.

Now it becomes a little more complex. So let me address themes as they unfolded:  funding, expansion, staff, threats, the development of the academic approach, and the merger with the VSC.


I am a little hazy on the exact dates, but between 1971 and the year we Got our first state funding (1975, I think) we raised another $270K from OEO, $750k from FIPSE, $120k from the Carnegie Corp., and approximately $2m from the Kellogg Foundation. This money allowed us to grow and expand without the approval of any state agency or the legislature.


We sent a team to southeast Vermont (Tom Yahn, 1st director, is still in Brattleboro) in 1971 and to Lamoille and Franklin (Peggy Williams) in either 72 or 73. The thinking in all cases, was to go into parts of the state that were either unserved or totally underserved to avoid the politics of competition. The exceptions were Lamoille county, where Johnson State (because of Bill Craig and his successor, Ed Elmendorf (at AASCU in DC) were our friends. Our office there was on the JSC campus. Also, Caledonia County and Lyndon State where Lyndon State operated, they were hostile from day one. But the Northeast a kingdom was the poster child for poverty and remote rural isolation in Vermont, and we had to be in all three counties with offices in Hardwick, St. Johnsbury, and Newport.  With these sites in play, the initial shape of what was to become CCV was set and stayed the same through the end of my presidency.


Inevitably I will forget a few important people. But we were blessed with an extraordinary group of people across the college in these early years. And , as an aside, I can say that the influence that Tim Pitkin, recently retired President of Goddard, had as well as the Goddard Low residency program (GEPFE) were instrumental in informing our approaches to learning and assessment.

In the field: Margery Walker, Clo Pitkin, Don Hooper (still living in Brookfield) and Tim Welch in CVT; Tom Yahn, Nancy Chard,  John Turner, Priscilla Newell in SEVT; Peggy Williams, Pixley Tyler Hill, and Kathi Rousselle (who also worked in The Newport office) in Franklin County; and John Findlay and his team in the NEK.

In the central office, Dot Hanna kept the books and I am sure that is one reason why we raised money. Funders had confidence that she wore the boots and would protect the money. She has passed, but her sister, Julia Northrup is still alive in Underhill. Other critical people were Ken Hood, Larry Daloz, Steve Hochschild, Dick Eisele, and Mary Wade.

John Holden (former commissioner of education who advised us), and later on Myrna Miller who brought professional grade assessment expertise to the college. The current chancellor, Tim Donovan, literally worked every position at the college, beginning at age 26 or so, and became a pillar of its later development.


Other than the continual search for dollars in the run up to state approval, and the general astonishment among many establishment people and educators that what we were doing was not higher education which led to constant harassment and attacks, There were three sources of threat through the first four-to-six years: University of Vermont College of Continuing Education, Lyndon State ( and more passively the other VSC), and private higher education in Vt.  UVMCE wanted our market, the other VSC wanted our money (federal and state), and the privates wanted us gone because they thought we were low quality. I can elaborate more on this if and when it is important. But the high point was a meeting with Gov. Salmon and UVM administrators in the governor’s office in which he warned them off a strategy that would have put us out of business. Luckily, I saw it for what it was, and we were able to stop it.  This was another completely fortuitous event.  If it were a different governor, it would have been a different outcome in all likelihood. Also, Graham Newell, a Lyndon State professor, had drafted the VSC authorizing legislation and chaired the Senate education committee. He was an ardent and persistent foe.

Development of the Academic Approach

Until the FIPSE and CAEL connections developed, we were flying by our own compass. We were outcomes -based because we know that without the traditional input measures — campus, faculty, library, etc.–we had to show results. The outside money bought us the time to get minimally good at this as well as the assessment of prior experiential learning that we could make the case. We were community-based so we drew on the brains of the community to structure our programs. etc.

Merger with the VSC and State Funding

A clever tactic embedded in a larger strategy.

  1. I approached the Provost of the VSC, Bob Babcock, who I had known since birth (mine), and asked that he and his President’s council approve our courses as being of college level. He agreed and, from then on, we had regular reviews and approvals of all our courses.
  2. We then approached the VSC to enter the system. I had read the statute and it was permissive. In other words they could add colleges when they wanted to. There was no requirement to petition the legislature and the governor for a charter. The logic was that, if the legislature and the governor wanted the college, they would fund it.  If not, they would not. There were three steps to this.
  • First, the board appointed a commission chaired by Sister Elizabeth Candon, with members Frank Smallwood (I think), Ruth Page (board member) and Dick Wadhams. The Candon committee recommended that the VSC Board take us in, that what we were doing was post-secondary.
  • Second, we were taken in conditionally. The deal was that if the legislature would fund us at $50k that year, that was approval and we would become members of the system.
  • Third, we went to the legislature and, ultimately, the deal was done ad we got the $50K. The stories around this process are too numerous to even refer to here. But if you are interested, I can do them in person. The “near death” experiences were numerous and dire.

In the meantime, I had made liaison with a lot of the Agricultural Extension group, Bob Davidson at UVM and State Sen. Keith Wallace from Waterbury. So we had great support from some traditional sources.

There were three affiliations that made a huge difference for us.

Connecting to Out-of-state Networks

  1. The FIPSE grant brought us money and connections.
  2. CAEL, a new assessment group of which we were charter members. It was there that we, through Larry Daloz, began to develop a comprehensive approach to assessment.

Developing In-state Leadership Networks

  1. The Candon Commission led to a network of influential people who, behind the scenes, kept making the case for what became CCV.

Myrna Ring Miller

myrnaMCCV President 1979 – 1982

Thank you for this opportunity to reminisce on my wonderful years at CCV. When I came to Vermont in 1975 to design and set up the Assessment of Prior Learning Program, the first thing I realized was that the mountains, rivers and weather often separated the students from one  end of the State to the other. Peter Smith wisely had made CCV a locally based institution and I followed his model with the APL program and the External Degree Program.

When I became the President of CCV in 1979 I quickly realized there were some short-comings in the state-wide model. One of the first we had to overcome was a way to assure that students from Brattleboro to St. Albans were getting the equivalent learning in the same classes. For example, English 101 was essentially the same regardless of location. I knew that the New England Association, our accrediting body, would insist on this. The staff was not thrilled to say the least! They wanted to keep things responsive to the local students’ needs. So we had to do some serious soul searching about students’ needs in Vermont. I pushed very hard to convince the staff that we had to have courses with traditional credit hours and grades so our graduates could move on to receive advanced degrees. I knew that Vermont had many people cut off from attending on-campus degree granting institutions due to family obligations and a variety of other circumstances and that CCV could really fill an important need.  Classes that were consistent and for credits while delivered close to home was what I saw as the real need. I wasn’t sure the staff entirely agreed with this more traditional approach, but at that time our funding was hanging on by a thread so they went along with my ideas. The important thing for all of us was keeping people in the local centers to hold each student’s hand and walk them through the registration and degree requirements. For many older students even the idea of attending “college” is very frightening. In this way we kept the local, student-centered support system in place while we bit off the task of making CCV’s teaching and learning more traditional. The new direction was not easy. Teachers and staff had to do a big turn around for which they deserve great kudos. Many are still there and others have retired but all should be praised for their commitment to the College through those tough times. Some thought I was the devil who was going to destroy the College and others thought I was its savior. The truth is that I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to a wonderful institution.

I am very grateful for the support I received from the Board of Trustees for my changes and for their continued support of CCV. It made my heart sing when I attended the opening of the Winooski Center. I knew that CCV was a dream come true and here to stay.