Gateway College's president retires abruptly

Posted at 9:49 AM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 09:49:25-04

FLORENCE, Ky. — The founding president of Gateway Community & Technical College will retire on Wednesday.

Ed Hughes, Gateway's only president since its founding in 2002, told the board of trustees his immediate retirement was in the best interest of the college.  

Keith Bird, Kentucky Community & Technical College System chancellor emeritus, will serve as interim president beginning Oct. 1. Mark Baker will lead the school until October. 

The board of trustees gave Hughes a four-year contract extension in spring 2014, but he decided to retire now amid criticism from some board members about reduced enrollment.

"I am convinced that it is in my personal best interest and that of the college community to accelerate the transition process so that a new executive can be found to carry on the great work of Gateway," Hughes wrote in a letter to colleagues and friends. "I have been gravely concerned that the fine reputation that Gateway has earned has been misrepresented and tarnished," he wrote.

Sjogren said Hughes was not accepting interview requests Monday.

Gateway's enrollment for the current semester was 3,753 students as of last week, which compares to 3,708 at the same time last year, according to Michelle Sjogren, Gateway spokeswoman.  

Jim Parsons, president of the Gateway Foundation's board, said he was disappointed Hughes decided to retire, and he had hoped Hughes would remain on the job for years to come.

"I think he's done an outstanding job at Gateway and has worked tirelessly for the college," he said. "I think that whoever comes in as the new president has some big shoes to fill."

Parsons declined to address any of the criticism leveled at Hughes and said he had left the college in good shape. 

Gateway President Ed Hughes retirement announcement

Colleagues and Friends,

After nearly 15 years as President of Gateway Community and Technical College I am announcing my retirement.  I informed KCTCS President Box of my decision recently and my last day at the college will be Wednesday, September 16, 2015.  I am convinced that it is in my personal best interest and that of the college community to accelerate the transition process so that a new executive can be found to carry on the great work of Gateway.  While my remaining time with you as President will be brief, the decision to retire at this time is one that I have been carefully considering.  Those of you who know me well understand that once I complete my analysis and a decision is made, I like to implement it quickly.

I have been gravely concerned that the fine reputation that Gateway has earned  has been misrepresented and tarnished.  The highly public actions during the past months, while often directed at me, have overshadowed the exceptional work that the staff, faculty and community partners accomplish to help more students achieve greater successes.  As a college community we know that there has not been turmoil at Gateway. To the contrary, there has been and continues to be healthy dialog and spirited debate with a deeply held commitment to find ways to improve the educational and life success for our students.   When differences exist we have a track record of coming together to find and implement solutions.  The results of the recently completed PACE survey confirms that we have created a healthy culture that is collaborative and consultative.

Those dialogs and debates over the years have produced a long list of improvements that have yielded impressive results.
• Gateway ranks 2nd in the retention of students among the 16 KCTCS colleges which means students complete their credentials faster.
• While enrollments in community colleges in America are down considerably, as of last week, headcount at GCTC was 7% ahead of last year,  thanks to the innovative work of staff and faculty.
• Over the past decade the college has received over $25 million in competitive grants which helped us create new programs to meet the region’s needs in manufacturing, healthcare, logistics  and information technology to name just a few.
• Innovative thinking by faculty and staff has enabled Gateway’s relatively new online programs  to grow exponentially and affords an alternative way for students to obtain their education.
• The college’s Workforce Solutions/Corporate College has trained thousands of workers in hundreds of companies every year and is seen as a true partner in the success of the region’s businesses.
• Gateways’ own critical report about workforce issues impacting advanced manufacturing led to the region wide Advanced Manufacturing Coalition that is a model for addressing the talent pipeline in the region’s workforce.  More students are in more programs that are directly related to the workforce needs in critical industry and business sectors in the region.
• The Urban Metro Campus is changing the urban core of the region and gives residents greater access to education and training that will improve their lives and the lives of their family members while contributing to the rebirth of the urban core.  Embedding the campus into the community through the adaptive reuse of buildings and the intentional partnerships with community organizations like the Kenton County Public Library is a model for the nation.
• The number of high school students taking dual credit classes has increased 200% since 2014.
• The Gateway 2 NKU and Gateway 2 TMC programs enable transfer students to start at Gateway, complete their associate’s degree, transfer, and save 40-50% of the cost of a bachelor’s degree. These programs are a direct result of hard work of our faculty and staff for the benefit of students.

Together, we built an institution that is recognized as a premier community and technical college in the region, state and nation.   Innovation and excellence have been two hallmarks of Gateway and have garnered recognitions with major awards like:

* The national 2014 Bellwether Award for Community partnerships with CITI.
* Top 25 Online Education Program among two-year colleges in America.
* Best for Vets (2014, 2015)
* US Department of Education 2014 First in the World grant recipient; 1 of 24 colleges and universities from over 500 applications.
* Numerous regional, state, national awards that recognize the impressive work of the college’s faculty, staff and students.

We have not done this alone, nor in isolation.  We have formed strong partnerships across the region in order to provide the most comprehensive set of services to support our students.  No partner has been of greater importance than the Gateway Foundation.   Fourteen years ago the foundation had less than $5,000 in a checking account.  Today its assets exceed $8 million.  Over $150,000 in scholarships are now awarded annually to students because of the collective actions of the Board.  The Urban Metro Campus and the new Transportation Center simply would not be possible without the bold actions of the Board.  The Center for Technology, Innovation and Enterprise (TIE) was purchased and renovated entirely by the Foundation Board.  We have completed the BuildSmart matching program because of the work of the Foundation board members.  We owe them a continuing debt of gratitude.

While we are not perfect, in fourteen short years we have built a great institution with an even greater future.  I am proud that we have embedded the concept of change into the fabric of the college.  We have learned to embrace change, implement change within the college and be part of leading change in the region.  I challenge each of you to continue to seek challenge over comfort, forgiveness over permission and place others before self.  It is time to be proud of all we have accomplished.

While I will not be part of the internal college community after Wednesday, I will remain the biggest champion for Gateway, its programs, services and its people.  I will especially be an advocate for its students whose actions continue to be courageous and inspirational.   In 2002 during the presidential inauguration ceremony, I dared the college and community to dream big and soar.  You have done that and I ask only that you strive to soar to even greater heights.

It has been a singular honor and privilege to have had the opportunity to contribute to the founding and development of the college.  Equally gratifying is the knowledge that Gateway is now considered a critical component in the future vitality of the region.  On behalf of Sarah, my best friend and life partner, I sincerely thank each of you for your kindness, support, understanding and friendship.  Ed


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