Carol Lucey finished her last day as president of Western Nevada College on Wednesday, leaving the reins to Chet Burton as executive officer until a new president is appointed.
But Lucey won’t be going away. She said she intends to be fully involved with Senate Bill 391, which she hopes will eventually provide WNC with a stable funding base. That legislation passed by the 2013 Legislature opens the door to include local funding to help support WNC and Great Basin Community College.
“In the end I think that’s the only thing that’s going to allow Nevada to have colleges outside of Washoe and Clark counties,” she said in July.
She announced in July that she was leaving the presidency but said she would give the Board of Regents time to conduct a national search for her replacement, staying on until January if needed. She said that search still has not even started.
“The longer you’re a lame duck, the harder it is,” she said Wednesday. “I just decided this is the time.”
Lucey sent a letter announcing her departure to the college faculty and staff, as well as members of the college’s three community advisory boards.
She said she took the job 15 years ago “because I had pretty strong feelings about what she colleges could do for people.”
“I’ve got a lot to say about community colleges, the importance of these colleges to economic development and also to providing social mobility to people who don’t have other things they can do,” she said.
But, she said, as president, she was restrained.
“I’m old enough now to have formed a lot of strong opinions in my life, and sometimes college administrators have to be quiet. I don’t want to be quiet,” she said.
She said she will be very involved in the SB391 committee because, “It just doesn’t seem like Nevada is using its colleges as effectively as they could, so I’m going to be out beating that drum.”
In a letter to the college staff she said WNC is a very different place than it was when she arrived.
“Even with the significant financial challenges that we have faced and met, we have been able to make changes that I believe have been good for our students and for all the communities we serve,” she wrote.
She said those include diversifying the student population with more recent high school graduates, disabled, low-income and minority students. They added a Veterans Resource Center this semester and increased the number of students who complete degrees nearly every year since she arrived. In 2013, she said, the school issued degrees to 522 students and certificates to another 691 students.
Burton thanked Lucey in a prepared statement.
“Dr. Lucey has provided a solid foundation on which to continue serving the bright young women and men passing through the doors of Western,” Burton said. “They are the keys to our future, and we must never lose sight of that fact. We will continue to do everything we can to support and assist them in furthering their education and reaching their career goals.”
District 9 Regent Ron Knecht, of Carson City, said the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents will start the presidential search process around Nov. 1. Knecht said the goal is to have a new president in place by July 1.
Before the search process begins Chancellor Daniel Klaich and members of the Board of Regents will host a meeting on campus to gather feedback about the qualifications of the new president. Knecht said he hoped to meet at the WNC-Fallon campus.
“There is a process in place; an open process to reach out to everyone in the community and the college community to gather feedback,” Knecht said of the search.
The Regents will meet Oct. 18 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6, also at the UNLV. Knecht said an acting president will be named while the search process takes place.
News Editor Adam Trumble contributed to this report.