Former ECC president Paul Heath dies at 78

Elgin Community College’s “builder president” died Dec. 27 at age 78, about two decades after launching a $48 million expansion of the Spartan Drive campus.

Paul Heath, ECC’s fifth president, served from 1987 to 1994 and oversaw one of the greatest periods of growth and expansion at the college since the 1960s, according to the commemorative history book, “Community’s College: Sixty Years of Elgin Community College.”

John Duffy, a member of the ECC board of trustees since 1975, called Heath a “class act,” describing him as caring, bright and charismatic.

“He led the college admirably and he did it in a classy way,” Duffy said.

Heath presided over a 69 percent increase in enrollment and the addition of 13 occupational programs, according to the ECC history book. He was on campus for the opening of the Visual and Performing Arts Center and got construction going on the Instruction Center, Business Conference Center and Math/Science addition.

Besides his oversight of the broad initiatives on campus, Heath was a detail-oriented leader.

Paul Dawson, managing director of construction and former director of facilities, said Heath was always engaged in how the campus looked.

“If he saw something that needed improving or if there was a dead tree that he didn’t like the looks of, he would give me a call and I’d take care of it,” Dawson said.

Dawson said Heath regularly had a smile on his face and was well liked by others on campus for his professionalism and leadership.

His seven years at Elgin Community College marked the last seven years of his career. Before retirement, Heath worked at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich., Parkersburg Community College in Parkersburg, W. Va., and as the founding president of John Wood Community College in Quincy, Ill.

Heath served as chairman of the Council of Presidents for the Illinois Community College Association in 1985 and 1986 and his obituary said he was honored by the White House for his work at ECC.

Heath died at an assisted living facility in Xenia, Ohio. Services were private.

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