May Munger

My journey back through CCV history, my, where do I start?  First, I have to confess that the journey started with Vermont State Colleges starting in April, 1985 at Castleton State College.  In August, 1997, I applied at CCV for the position of financial aid counselor and was hired for the position.  At that time, Barbara Murphy was president at CCV and today she is the president of JSC.  Bette Matkowski was my Regional Director, who today is retired after being president of Lamar Community College, Colorado, then Johnson and Wales University, Denver.  Shortly after starting, Tim Donovan became my new Regional Director, who today is the Chancellor of VSC.  What does this all mean?  Working at CCV opened the doors for many who were eager to ask, “I wonder” questions.  If you had an idea, the motto was run with it until you were tackled!

At the time I was hired, I was “assigned” a mentor who I found interesting.  At CSC, I had a mentor but one of my choosing.  My assigned mentor was John Sweeney, who not only showed me the ropes of financial aid, but to this day is one of my greatest friends.  He was there to not only teach me financial aid regulations, but to be my sounding board as I moved my career forward.


In 2003, I was appointed to the High School Committee which would later become my passion.  The appointment was the beginning of my involvement with the class, “Introduction to College Studies”.  This class was offered free to high school students to learn the skills needed to become successful in college.  Students completing the course at that time could apply for a scholarship to take a free class at CCV.  The scholarship was given out to only several students due to funding.  Today, this class continues to be offered, but now all students completing the course can not only take a free class at CCV, but they can take the college class at any of the VSC colleges.  Years of developing partnerships has enabled this class to be a great success for CCV.

I remember the day that I was asked to teach ICS (I kept asking “I wonder what it would be like to actually teach this class!), was a defining moment for me.  I could work all day at CCV, but at the end of the day when I walked into the classroom was like I had a new life.  I did not start my college career until I was 35 due to the fact I had no one to help me through the process.  At 18, for many of us girls, the choice was either go to college to become a teacher, nurse, or get married.  While I was accepted into nursing, I was so scared of going to college, leaving home and figuring out what I needed, I declined and got married.  The day I started teaching, I made a promise that every student I taught, I would make sure they knew the resources available to them to help with these difficult decisions.  Even in retirement I get calls from friends who have friends who have someone needing help with a college issue.

My second passion at CCV was working with TRIO.  I remember almost begging for a chance to be a TRIO advisor and I think I even promised I would stay 5 years in that position!  Working with TRIO students was extremely rewarding as I watched them work through difficult situations to finally walking across the stage to receive their diplomas.

I think one of the most defining moments at CCV was when the college was about to begin major changes in how we did everything.  We were growing and needed to make changes.  At that time, every site received a copy of “Who Moved My Cheese” and we were asked to read it.  Change is hard and those who resisted were unhappy, and for some, this met leaving CCV.   For those of us who dared asked “I wonder……..” were excited and met the new challenges.  New adventures came to us and still today, I keep this card that was given to each of us just to remind me that no matter what stage in life I am at, I need to keep reading this little card:

 The Handwriting on the Wall

Change Happens

They Keep Moving the Cheese

 Anticipate Change

Get Ready for the Cheese to Move

 Monitor Change

Smell the Cheese Often

 So You Know When It is Getting Old

Adapt to Change Quickly

The Quicker You Let Go of Old Cheese,

The Sooner You Can Enjoy the New Cheese


Move with the Cheese

 Enjoy Change!

Savor the Adventure

And the Taste of New Cheese!

Be Ready to Quickly

Change Again and Again

The Keep Moving the Cheese

From Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson

CCV gives those who want to expand their careers and interest every possible support needed.  I remember once being told that as a supervisor/leader, you judge your success by the success of the people you lead.

Bette Matkowski


CCV Memories 

I spent 16 wonderful years (1984-2000) at CCV; it was the best place I ever worked.

In 1984 I was out of work and just happened to see a help wanted ad in the Burlington Free Press for someone to teach English Comp; as it turned out, it was one of the first two classes ever offered in the Middlebury area. Carol Eckels taught math, and I taught English Comp—with 12 students in a small room at the Parent-Child Center in downtown Middlebury. From there Michael Sawdey, the regional director, asked me to visit local high schools to talk about CCV, and I did some of that work as well.

In the summer CCV was awarded a big federal grant, part of which was to open a site in Middlebury. Pixley Hill, Barbara Murphy and Michael Sawdey interviewed me for the coordinator of instruction and advisement position, and I was officially hired as the CIA in Middlebury on my 37th birthday in October of 1984. Our plan was to be ready to go for Spring 1985. We had no office, no textbooks, no schedule, no instructors, nothing. But by Spring we had 167 course placements, 27 classes, and an office in the historic Battell Block (where CCV is still housed). Because Middlebury has so many highly-educated citizens, it was easy to find instructors—many of whom believed fiercely in what we were doing.

CCV was less than 15 years old at that time; we used to say it was in its ‘institutional infancy,’ but that was a gift for many of us. The college was wide open with opportunity. If you were eager and willing to try something, there was room for you to grow. The tolerance for mistakes was high. There was a ‘missionary zeal’ to the work, and staff and instructors worked extraordinarily long hours because they believed in the mission of CCV. We were paying instructors about $385 per course, and my first contract as a 10-month employee was for about $12,000.

In the summer of 1986 Ken Kalb, the president, and Tim Donovan, the regional director, asked me to go to Rutland for two years to resuscitate that site. Rutland was down to about 70 students; the office was in the basement of the old city jail, and the whole site was on its last legs. I’ll never forget that I asked Ken Kalb what would happen if I couldn’t resuscitate the site, and he was, as always, forthright—that I’d be job hunting! This was a tough job, and Rutland was a tough nut to crack. But after two years our enrollment had tripled, and we were on the verge of moving into the old Howe Scale building.

In the summer of 1988 David Buchdahl, who had been the western regional director for two years, took another position at CCV, and Tim and Ken asked me to take on the regional director’s role for six sites—Morrisville, St. Albans, South Burlington, Middlebury, Rutland and Bennington. I drove every day up and down the western part of Vermont. As CCV was maturing from its infancy to its adolescence, sites kept moving around to accommodate their growth. In one year I oversaw moves in Burlington, Rutland, Bennington and Morrisville. In Morrisville the owner of the hardware store where we were moving into adjacent space ‘signed’ a ten year lease with renovations with a handshake—he was a wonderful landlord for CCV, a person whose values aligned perfectly with the work of CCV.

Because CCV was so ‘new’ and operated in such unorthodox ways, we were always proving ourselves. At that time, the other VSC colleges were not required to accept CCV credits, and that was always a challenge. (Much of this challenge dissipated when Judith Ramaley became president of UVM and insisted that UVM accept CCV credits.) We had many of the hallmarks of a ‘fly by night’ college—no fulltime faculty, constant moves from one space to another, a student enrollment that was unpredictable, very little marketing money. There was always the desire to prove ourselves but not at the expense of the creativity and imagination that made CCV work. I remember, for example, when the South Burlington site reached the 1000 course placement mark! It was simply amazing that in about five years CCV had grown so much.

In 1990 I volunteered to become the Equity Officer for CCV, in addition to remaining as the regional director. I also chaired a policy task force that met for two years to review and revise every administrative and academic policy at CCV. This is an example of the freedom of the college—I learned so much from these two responsibilities that served me well in the rest of my career. Most colleges put you in a position that is nothing more than a box of responsibilities, and your ability to navigate up, down and around is severely limited, but this was never true at CCV.

I’m giving you a timeline here, but it doesn’t really get at the heart of my enthusiasm for CCV. I loved the people who worked and taught at CCV. I loved the way we worked together. The spirit and the mood of the college were so pervasive, so personal, so aspirational that you wanted to do your best work. The idealism of Peter Smith, the founding president, set the course, but there were so many more folks who believed in his vision and carried forth his dream. Ken Kalb was a master at setting tone, and this was before email, so we had to rely on snail mail, occasional all-staff meetings, and a ton of driving around the state.

For example, I hired Mike Kolesnik in 1985 to teach an evening computer course in Rochester at the high school. He got there one night and realized that the building was locked up tight, so he crawled through a window, opened the front door and taught the class anyway. When we needed a coordinator in Rutland, who better than an instructor who was willing to crawl through a window to teach!

One of my saddest memories of CCV is the death of Nancy Winfield, the head coordinator of the Burlington site. Nancy was one of the kindest people I ever met; she used to see problems and solutions as ‘a piece of the puzzle.’ Her death shook the Burlington site to the core. I went to see her the week before she died, and she told me then that she would do anything to be back at CCV—she was a good woman doing good work, and she has been an inspiration to me for 20 years.

When Barbara Murphy became president, CCV really was moving into its adolescence. CCV felt more settled, not less energetic, but many of its earlier challenges had been resolved. Barbara brought her own professional maturity, her CCV experience and her wisdom to the presidency, and CCV was the better for it. Barbara asked me to take on CCV’s advancement functions, including alumni affairs, marketing, publications, and fundraising, and by 1998 I was the dean of advancement although I still oversaw three CCV sites. With Barbara and Tim’s encouragement, I began looking at community college presidencies for myself, and by 2000 I accepted the presidency of a small rural Colorado college on the high plains, a dust bowl college called Lamar Community College.

On the day that I needed to make a decision about whether or not to leave CCV, Peter Smith was the keynote speaker at convocation. Peter used to introduce himself as the man who had a great future behind him as he was always very proud of founding CCV. That day he was as inspirational as he has always been, and I despaired at the thought of leaving a college I loved as much as I loved CCV, but I was ready to move on.

I confess that in my two presidencies I always wanted to duplicate the climate, energy and passion of CCV. I knew not having enough money, not having enough faculty or staff, not having the best or latest of everything—those were not excuses for not building a climate of respect. I knew that excellence was possible because I had lived it for 16 years. That was the lesson of CCV, and I am forever grateful for having learned it.

–Bette Matkowski