14 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL
was a great experience. You have to get outside your
Julie Walworth, board chair at WNCC since
January and a board member for five years, was not
yet there when Holcomb took the helm but says
it’s important for a new president to visit with the
board, staff, members of the community and—most
“Smaller towns on the outskirts aren’t always as
involved with the college, and yet they’re still taxed, so
we have to make sure our connections with them are
strong,” she says. “And it’s important that students get
to know him—students are what we’re here for.”
Donald Generals ascended to leadership of the
Community College of Philadelphia in July 2014 from
the position of vice president of academic affairs at
Mercer County Community College in West Windsor,
New Jersey. He says that his board had vetted his
30-year career thoroughly and helped smooth his
transition by expressing full confidence in him, which
included swatting away some people’s questions about
a stint he had spent at a proprietary school.
“They publicly, as well as privately, dismissed those
accusations or criticisms,” Generals says. “The level of
confidence they showed in me was very important.
Their confidence infused credibility in the [vetting]
process as well as the final candidacy.”
Like Holcomb, he made the effort to get to know
his 15 board members on an individual level. “I took
the opportunity, and they reciprocated, in trying to
get to know each other relative to our personal and
professional identities,” Generals says. “You have
to have a relationship with your board as a whole,
but you also have to work at your relationship with
The board also encouraged him to attend AACC’s
New CEO Academy, where he found “a supportive
environment and atmosphere” with colleagues who
also had been on the job for only a short time. And the
board supported Generals’ early steps in reorganizing
the college. “I feel like I hit the ground running,” he says.
Jeremiah White, who chaired the search committee that led to Generals’ hire and became board chair
last September, says that prior to the search, his board
came together on its vision and set out to find someone who could take that and build on it.
“We were all in lock sync about where we were,
and what we needed to see in the first year and the
second year from the new president,” White says.
“Part of it had to do with the board accepting the fact
that he had to get in there and get under the hood. We
Where Generals remains relatively early in his
tenure, Millicent Valek, president at Brazosport College
in Lake Jackson, Texas, has been going for more than
two decades in what she terms with a chuckle, “my first
presidency, and probably my last.” She arrived in 1996
after eight years as chief academic officer at Arizona
Western, and, like Holcomb and Generals, she serves on
the presidential advisory committee of ACCT.
When Valek was hired, her board had gone
through a search process that was several months long
Donald Generals and Board Chair Jeremiah White engage in a discussion on campus.