By Karl Schneider
Dr. Roy Church, Lorain County Community College’s third president, is celebrating his 25th anniversary this year at LCCC. Under his guidance and leadership LCCC has grown from a 5,500-student campus in 1987 to a 19,000-student campus today.
LCCC’s first president was Max J. Lerner, who served from 1964 to 1971. Lerner was followed by Omar L. Olson, 1971-1986, and Richard R. Mellott, who served in an interim capacity until Church was hired in 1987 as the college’s third and current president.
Moving to Northeast Ohio from St. Petersburg, Fla., Church found Lorain County to be a nice home for his wife and two young children. “I was looking for a presidency and a friend of mine at Baldwin Wallace told me about LCCC and suggested I would enjoy it,” said Church. Lorain County’s diverse environment, from rural farming communities to its close proximity to the Cleveland metropolis, gave Church and his family a great place to lay down roots. It was a different change of pace for Church, “I couldn’t believe there was no traffic,” explained Church. “I remember going to meet a friend on Broadway in Lorain and I think I only hit one traffic light the whole way.” Traffic in Ohio proved to be quieter than Florida.
Becoming the president of a community college was a natural progression for Church. He had worked with two Florida community colleges and brought a variety of administration experience to LCCC. Church’s administration saw the need for jobs in Lorain County and wanted the college to be more active in the role of making these jobs accessible to the county’s residents. “We always try to do as much as possible with what our resource base allows us,” said Church.
LCCC has been one of the least wealthy community colleges in the area. This has not stopped Church from innovating new ways to make higher education available to the community. Early censuses showed Lorain County had the highest rate of associate degrees but the lowest rate of bachelor and higher degrees in the area. “As a community college we needed to focus on how to raise the attainment rate of higher degrees,” said Church.
Support from the community
LCCC and the residents of Lorain County initiated and passed a $1.2 million levy in 1995 that helped create the University Partnership program. This initiative has been substantial in helping students attain degrees above an associate. The 2010 census shows that LCCC has the second largest growth rate for higher education degrees in the area.
Church is proud of the impact LCCC has made on the surrounding community. “I’m delighted about this achievement and find it fulfilling,” said Church. LCCC worked with county commissioners and the Ohio Department of Development in 2001 to form The Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE). Numerous high growth areas have seen 700 new jobs with the help of GLIDE.
LCCC has seen a 120 percent increase in tuition under Church’s leadership. The tuition growth has stimulated the development of new facilities on campus. “We focus on critical facilities that will bring a high quality collegiate environment,” said Church.
Church has worked with many faculty members during his time at LCCC.
Others weigh in
Dean of Arts and Humanities Dr. Robert Beckstrom was a first year faculty member when Church took the position of president. “Before Dr. Church, this was a good school but far more tranquil. He has been a change maker,” said Beckstrom.
Beckstrom explains that Church’s momentum has helped keep progress at LCCC from leveling into a plateau. For the first 12 years of his presidency, he was thought of as ‘the new president’ just because he always kept things moving and changing in a forward progression. “Because he was so dynamic and effective there was an operative theory that he would be here a short time and move onto a more prestigious role, such as a member of congress,” said Beckstrom.
Rita Pullen, administrative assistant at the Business Division, remembers the times before Church held office. “It was much more laid back and quiet before Church. LCCC had to hire an extra secretary for his office and everything was on the go. It’s like Dr. Church lit a fire under the president’s chair,” said Pullen.
Pullen remembers a time when Church actually had to deal with a serious fire. “During the fire [Spring 2009] Church was the man getting everything organized. It was the only time that I didn’t see him smiling,” recalled Pullen.
“His presidency has always carried very high standards of institutional and personal ethics,” said Beckstrom. “I’ve had a wonderful career here, and much of it I owe to Dr. Church.”
Church said he is trying to create a healthy culture at LCCC and hopes to see more and more students participate and get engaged with the school.