Keith A. Reynolds
“It’s been a wonderfully gratifying tenure as President at Lorain County Community College. I have loved our students, I have loved our faculty, our staff, the collegiate environment is very special and we are—myself and my family are very blessed to have had this opportunity,” Dr. Roy A. Church said while announcing his retirement from his position as president of LCCC yesterday. He will officially retire on June 30, 2016.
It has been almost 30 years since Dr. Church, who was once described as “Dynamic Church,” in the pages of this newspaper came to northeast Ohio to lead LCCC. “Our college and our community are fortunate to have attracted and retained such a visionary, innovative leader in Roy Church,” said Terry Goode, chairman of the LCCC District Board of Trustees. “His impact and achievements have made him among the very top higher education leaders in the state and country. But, one quality we all know well about Roy Church – his actions have always been about this college and community. He has demonstrated a commitment to this community to be part of it, to understand it well, what it needed and how its college could serve those needs.”
Dr. Marcia Ballinger, provost and vice president of academic and learner services, said that the leadership of Dr. Church has had a profound effect on not only the running of the college but also on the lives of the students.
“I’m starting my 25th year at LCCC and I was very fortunate back in 1991, Dr. Church hired me. He has been my mentor. I have had the opportunity throughout much of his career here to work directly for him and with him, and to have been involved in many aspects of the college. He has been such a tremendous mentor in my career and my growth within the community college itself,” Dr. Ballinger said.
“It’s unprecedented to see community college presidents have the kind of tenure that he has had for nearly three decades. I think that speaks volumes for his leadership within the college, within the community, the region, the state, and nationally. One of the reasons that LCCC has the reputation it has as being, I think, one of the most premiere community colleges in our nation and being the most responsive to our community is due to his leadership,” she said.
“I would describe Dr. Church as a visionary leader who embraces the philosophy that we build everything together. He really looks at it from the students’ and from the communities’ perspective, and that people help support what they help create. Literally, throughout nearly thirty years, the responsiveness to our community in creating, not only the programs and services, but when I look at some of the really ground breaking initiatives that have occurred because of his vision and leadership. The UP I think is one tremendous example,” she said.
Dr. Robert Beckstrom, dean of Arts and Humanities, expressed similar sentiments. “Almost anything you see at this campus is a consequence of his vision and inspiration. His career has really shaped this school, so his departure is very significant. To begin, it’s unusual for presidents to stay at any one place for that long a time. For anyone to be president for 29 years, that’s a very long run. But to have such a dynamic individual leading for that period of time really adds to the significance of the departure. In any case, that’s a very dramatic development,” Dr. Beckstrom said.
“When he first came he preached the notion of student centeredness – that we do things for the students. So, that student focus was something that you see. For example, the idea that when a student comes in here in one visit, they fill out their forms to be a student, whatever transcripts have gone over, and by the time they step out they are a student here with a schedule. That’s the sort of thing he was in favor of doing. The way that this college is connected to its community has dramatically changed whereby when we do visions or revisions or refreshing of the vision statement, how we use the community involvement to really shape our vision of the future, he brought that. The college didn’t do that before. In fact, I don’t think the college even had any vision statements until he appeared on the scene. But to do it in such a way that engages the community the way that it does, that definitely has Roy Church’s fingerprints all over it.
There is an attitude on the campus that we can do things. If something is out there and the question is ‘Shall we do it?’, the answer is usually, ‘Of course!’. There’s this kind of institutional optimism that says even though we don’t have the money, we don’t have any more people, some way or another we have the capacity to do it regardless. He’s brought that kind of energy and expectation on the rest of the institution. So that’s why this college over achieves – because of the energy that’s coming from the president’s office,” Beckstrom said.
Dr. Johnathan Dryden, dean of Social Sciences & Human Services, appreciated the personal touch Dr. Church brought to his early years at LCCC.
“My role has changed over the years. When you’re hired part time you have one perspective on the college leadership and the longer that you’re here you begin to appreciate the impact that a strong, energetic, committed has, and that’s what Dr. Church is. The first thing I noticed was that he knew my name. I was a new faculty member, in English at the time, but he knows everybody’s name. So when he’s walking around campus, which he does, he’ll just walk around just to check-in, he’ll just poke his head in your office and say hello, and he’ll know you by name. That was one of the first things I noticed about him. He cared about the employees here and he took the time to know them and learn who they are,” Dr. Dryden explained.
“I’ve had opportunities to observe the impact of his leadership. My understanding is he brought to the college the current strategic process which is enormously inclusive. So, in the visioning process, which is the process by which the college establishes its goals and mission, he makes sure the college reaches out to the community, to businesses, to people from different parts of Lorain county so that the goals and mission of the college reflect the needs and aspirations of the community. When he came to LCCC, the college was near the top among colleges in north east Ohio regarding adults with associate’s degrees, we were at the top. But in terms of bachelor’s degree attainment, our county was dead last. And so the University Partnership grew out of that attempt to raise the educational attainment level of Lorain county. The 2010 census now, instead of Lorain county being at the bottom for bachelor’s degree attainment, is now in the middle of the pack among the counties in northeastern Ohio, which is a huge jump. A lot of that can be attributed to the UP program which came about under his leadership,” Dryden said.
There will be two open sessions that will be held Thursday at 11 am and Friday at 2 pm. You have to register on the website, but all students are welcome and encouraged to attend.
Olivia Moe, Charlotte Weiss, and Kristin Hohmann contributed to this story.