Harper board hopes three years is just the start for new president
Incoming Harper College President Avis Proctor received a three-year contract Wednesday that will task her with overseeing daily operations of the Palatine-based community college starting in July.
But as only the sixth president in the school's history -- in which her predecessors have served about a decade each -- the intention is Proctor will be there just as long, said Harper board Chair Greg Dowell.
"If we hire Dr. Proctor for three years and that's it, that will be a failure for the board," Dowell said after the board's 6-0 vote Wednesday night on Proctor's $305,000-a-year employment agreement. "She is viewed as someone who will have an extended history with the college. We shared with Dr. Proctor we're not looking for a three-year person."
Proctor, currently president of Broward College's North Campus in Coconut Creek, Florida, will take the helm at Harper on July 1, when Ken Ender steps down.
In an email Wednesday night, Proctor wrote that she's been watching Harper for years and was impressed by its commitment to student success.
"Being a first-generation-in-college student, I know about the transformational power of education and Harper's demonstrated dedication to transforming lives through higher education is what attracted me to this opportunity," she wrote.
Ender, hired in 2009, told the board of his intentions to serve until 2019 about a year ago, when the search for a successor began. Using consultant R.H. Perry & Associates, a 19-person Harper search committee received 43 applications for the job -- 35 of which were deemed "qualified" and 10 of which were identified as semifinalists. The committee narrowed the list to three, who came to campus last month to meet with the board of trustees, foundation board, administrators, students, faculty senate and union leadership.
Dowell said the board spent about four hours with each finalist -- two hours in closed session asking the same questions of each, and another two hours at informal dinners. Trustees later regrouped for a final three-hour, closed-door meeting to discuss the candidates' strengths and weaknesses, during which board Vice Chair Pat Stack also shared feedback from attendees of public forums with the finalists.
At that meeting, trustees unanimously favored Proctor in a straw poll. Officials then drew up an eight-page employment contract, which was approved Wednesday in open session.
"The number one thing I think every trustee felt about Dr. Proctor is she is an extraordinary communicator," said Dowell, adding that when she arrived on campus, she walked around on her own to talk to students and faculty. "She did her homework about who Harper is."
Board members were impressed with Proctor's experience at Broward -- getting students to enroll and complete programs and measuring those outcomes -- something that aligns with Harper's "student success agenda," Dowell said.