CLEVELAND -- Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, who has been president for 21 years at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), announced Thursday that she will retire, effective June 30.
Cuyahoga Community College, currently marking a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary, was Ohio's first community college and remains its largest.
Thornton became its third president on Jan. 2, 1992, after serving six years as president of Lakewood Community College (now known as Century College) in White Bear Lake, Minn.
Thornton was credited with guiding the unprecedented institutional growth and development during her 21 years there.
She began her community college career in 1971 as an English faculty member at Triton College in a Chicago suburb and remained there until she left in1985 from her position as the dean of Academic Affairs.
"With the continued support and confidence of the Board of Trustees, the College Foundation and the people of Cuyahoga County, it has been my distinct privilege to work with our outstanding faculty and staff to promote student success in collaboration with our community partners," said Thornton.
"Together, we have steadily expanded affordable and accessible opportunities for student achievement and success and to meet the ever-evolving needs of our region's employers. I am extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish and believe this is the appropriate time for me to bring closure to my tenure and for the College to begin the transition to new leadership. We have recently launched several major academic initiatives, implemented new student success strategies and completed many major capital projects."
Jerry L. Kelsheimer, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said, "Dr. Thornton has worked tirelessly for more than two decades to shape Cuyahoga Community College as truly a place 'where futures begin.'"
A search advisory committee, which will include trustees as well as faculty, staff and community representation, will be chaired by Trustee David W. Whitehead, immediate past president of the Board. Dr. Carol A. Cartwright, retired president of Kent State University and Bowling Green State University, will be among its members.
The Board will also engage an executive-search firm to conduct a national search for the new President.
During Thornton's tenure:
- Enrollment has grown 40 percent - from 23,000 students on three campuses to more than 32,000 students on four campuses.
- In addition, more than 20,000 individuals are enrolled in workforce training programs at Tri-C's Corporate Colleges, Unified Technology Center and Advanced Technology Training Center.
- The College has maintained the lowest student tuition in Northeast Ohio and the second-lowest in the state.
- The curriculum has grown to more than 1,000 credit courses in more than 140 career and technical programs each semester, as well as nearly 800 distance-learning courses and nearly 400 hybrid courses.
- Tri-C has focused heavily on programs to foster student success, and Technical Learning Centers on each campus provide access to computers and other technology for all students.
- Major new construction and renovation projects totaling approximately $300 million have enhanced access to post-secondary education.
- Key projects have included the Westshore Campus in Westlake; two Corporate College campuses; the Brunswick University Center; the Advanced Technology Training Center and the acquisition of the Visiting Nursing Association (VNA) building adjacent to the Metropolitan campus.
- The Eastern Campus has doubled in size with two new facilities while the Metropolitan and Western Campuses have each had two new buildings or additions.
- Reflecting the College's commitment to environmental sustainability, much of the recent construction has been either LEED Silver or Gold Certified.
- Tri-C has become a major economic factor in Cuyahoga County, employing more than 3,000 faculty and staff and adding more than $115 million in additional labor and non-labor income to the region.