Retired vice admiral named new College of DuPage president

 
 
Updated 5/2/2016 10:50 PM
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  • Ann Rondeau, a past president of the National Defense University in Washington D.C., has been picked to become the next president of the College of DuPage.

      Ann Rondeau, a past president of the National Defense University in Washington D.C., has been picked to become the next president of the College of DuPage. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • College of DuPage board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi sports a smile after the board voted to hire Ann Rondeau as the new president of the Glen Ellyn-based school.

      College of DuPage board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi sports a smile after the board voted to hire Ann Rondeau as the new president of the Glen Ellyn-based school. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

A retired Navy vice admiral who described herself as a "nontraditional" candidate is poised to become the first female president in the 49-year history of the College of DuPage.

COD board members Monday voted to appoint Ann Rondeau as the sixth president of the state's largest community college. If she accepts the board's offer, Rondeau will begin work July 1 at the Glen Ellyn-based school.

"For me, the choice is clear," Trustee Charles Bernstein said before the vote. "She will establish trust. She will listen. And she will form the coalitions that this college needs in order to overcome our current challenges and to achieve excellence in all areas."

Rondeau was picked from among three finalists for the job. The three others were Elgin Community College President David Sam and Barbara Kavalier, district president of Navarro College in Texas.

Only four of the board's seven trustees supported Rondeau's appointment. Trustees Dianne McGuire and Joseph Wozniak voted "present." Trustee Erin Birt abstained.

As part of their vote, trustees authorized board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi, administrators and COD's lawyers to draft and negotiate an employment agreement with Rondeau, who is a past president of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

Rondeau will be paid a starting salary not to exceed $325,000 a year and receive benefits comparable to those provided to other senior administrators, including sick leave, medical insurance, a qualified annuity contribution not to exceed $18,000, computer and Internet access, and relocation expenses, officials said.

Monday night's vote brought to an end a monthslong nationwide search to replace Robert Breuder, who was fired in October.

Daily operations at COD have been overseen by Joseph Collins, the acting interim president, since April 2015, when Breuder was put on paid administrative leave amid state and federal probes into the college's spending and administrative practices.

Trustee Frank Napolitano, who also served on COD's presidential search committee, said Rondeau stood out during search committee interviews, public forums and interviews with the board.

"Dr. Rondeau is an excellent leader," said Napolitano, adding that she "will serve the community well" as president.

During a public forum last month, Rondeau said she applied for the president position at COD because education is her calling.

"My body of work is this kind of work," Rondeau said at the time. "I've spent my adult career training and teaching people how to get to the next level. This is a good fit."

Rondeau, 64, of Vienna, Virginia, said she would bring experience and leadership to the post, adding that she knows how to lead and help teams come together.

Rondeau said administrators and faculty members must work together to help students succeed. She said she also believes in shared governance and transparency.

In addition, she said the college shouldn't fear increased accountability.

"Accountability is a great thing," Rondeau said. "It's liberating. ... It's an opportunity."

Despite what happened previously at COD, Rondeau said the school should be confident because it has "great things to show."

After Monday night's vote, Glenn Hansen, president of the COD Faculty Association, said Rondeau was "an excellent choice."

"She will be an outstanding president," said Hansen, adding that the faculty firmly supports the board's choice.

Rondeau has 26 years of experience in military and educational roles, including deputy commander of the U.S. Transportation Command in Illinois and commander of the Naval Personnel Development Command in Virginia.

Several times during her military career, Rondeau was tasked with turning around an organization. She also has experience dealing with the Higher Learning Commission, which has placed COD on two years' probation because of questions about its administrative practices and dysfunction on the board.

Rondeau said it's going to take "hard work" to get COD off probation, but it's work that can be accomplished.

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