Leas says goodbye to Riverland

Published 11:32 am Friday, August 10, 2012

After nine years at Riverland Community College, my delightful career as its president came to a close on August 1. Although I was not actively searching for a new position — I was happy at Riverland and had planned to complete my career here — Big Bend Community College offers exciting opportunities for professional growth that are not available to me at Riverland. Moreover, Moses Lake, Wash., is located within three hours of both our children’s families. Watching our grandchildren grow up on Skype has been a challenge for Loyal and me.

I have enjoyed every year at Riverland because of the superlative faculty and staff members who have devoted themselves to excellence in teaching and learning and to the success of our students. Our employees genuinely care about helping others achieve their educational and career goals.

Riverland and I have also benefited from the generous support of members of the Riverland Community College Foundation board of directors. These caring volunteers have given their time, their expertise and their personal resources to help students access a higher education. They have truly made a difference in the lives of those whom they have helped. Moreover, they and the donors with whom they work have inspired me and others to find creative ways to extend a helping hand to students who are less fortunate.

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No community college is worthy of the name unless it collaborates with its communities. Fortunately, Riverland has enjoyed enviable support from the Austin-Mower County area, and I am especially indebted to our school officials, community leaders, elected officials, and employers who have supported Riverland. Leadership Austin is one project of which I am especially proud; its participants and their sponsors are wisely investing in the community’s future. The college’s partnership with the Hormel Foundation on the Cycles for Success scholarship and Be Your Best programs and the Early Childhood Education Center are additional sources of pride.

I remain confident that Riverland will continue its momentum with interim president Dr. Kent Hanson. Provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Northland Community and Technical College in East Grand Forks since 2003, Dr. Hanson is an excellent fit for Riverland. His experience with a multi-campus college will help Riverland build on its reputation for excellence during the transition to a permanent president next year.

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone has initiated a process by which the MnSCU Board of Trustees will identify and select Riverland’s next president by March 2013. Tim Wynes, president of Inver Hills Community College, will chair the search committee, which will consist of Riverland employee and student representatives and community representatives from the region Riverland serves. The search for a permanent president will be open, competitive, and nationwide, and the new president will take office July 2013.

Once again, I thank all of you who have made my nine years at Riverland so rewarding. Your support of this wonderful college is a powerful example of how all of us working together can help students achieve extraordinary results.