New president of EGCC sees exciting future for institution
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it — just try to make it even better. That would sum up the sentiments of Dr. Jimmie Bruce as he prepares to take over the presidency of Eastern Gateway Community College, one of the fastest growing two-year public institutions in the state of Ohio.
Bruce, currently vice president of Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas, was selected from a field of four finalists by the board of trustees. He will succeed Dr. Laura Meeks, who is retiring after 15 years at the helm.
The new president’s three-year term begins July 15, and he plans to spend the first several weeks learning the campuses, people and communities. It would appear that he intends to follow in Meeks’ footsteps, which we believe is the proper strategy given her success.
“The college has had strong leadership for the last several years,” Bruce said in an interview last week with Vindicator Education Writer Denise Dick. “When you see a long-standing president and exciting things going on, expanding its service area — those are the kinds of signs that something is going right.”
By every objective standard, things have been going right with Eastern Gateway Community College, formerly Jefferson Community College, especially with its expansion into the Mahoning Valley, the brainchild of Dr. Meeks. She worked with state and Mahoning Valley officials and with Youngstown State University in developing the blueprint for establishing its presence in the area.
The phenomenal growth in enrollment at its main campus in Steubenville and the Valley Center in downtown Youngstown, the Warren Center in that city’s downtown and classes at the career and technical centers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties are a testament to Meeks’ foresight.
SEARCH FOR SUCCESSOR
When the search for her successor began, the chairman of EGCC’s board of trustees, Jack Gilmore, offered this seemingly brazen prediction: enrollment could top 10,000 students in five to 10 years. There currently are 4,300 students on the campuses and satellite locations in the four counties.
Thus, Gilmore said, the new president must be able to manage that growth while improving student retention and completion. There were 23 applicants who were screened by a special search committee. The four finalists stood out from the pack and were put through an intensive interviewing process, which included public forums in Steubenville and Youngstown.
Although the Youngstown public forums were poorly attended — an editorial earlier this month took local business, community and political leaders and Youngstown State officials to task for not attending, there were other opportunities for input.
Indeed, a YSU spokesman, responding to the editorial, noted that EGCC had set up meetings with smaller groups of individuals and that YSU participated in them. He added that Interim Provost Dr. Martin Abraham attended three of the four meetings, talked to the finalists and provided input to the search committee.
YSU’s involvement is crucial because Eastern Gateway is a natural feeder school for the urban institution.
Bruce, who will be paid $155,000 a year, told The Vindicator that while Northwest Vista has 16,000 students, it has the same goal as EGCC: Serving at-risk and underpriviledged students.
It’s a goal that has been clearly articulated by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Board of Regents.