How long have you been working at John Tyler?
September 1st started my 21st year, so about as long as you two have been alive and then some. I started in September 1990.
Have you always been the president, or have you had other jobs at John Tyler as well?
I came here as president. Obviously, that wasn’t my first job, though.
What are some of the responsibilities you have as the president of John Tyler?
That’s a good question. I guess it’s probably about what you think it is. Internally, it’s trying to provide leadership to the institution. Externally, it’s trying to make friends with the surrounding colleges and the community. I’m sort of an ambassador, I guess.
John Tyler is responsible for 10 different jurisdictions. Chesterfield is obviously the big elephant in the room, but we have others, so it’s a really big area to cover. In fact, geographically, it’s the third largest area in the community college system in terms of square miles.
What’s changed the most about John Tyler since you’ve been here?
Well, there was the Chester campus, period, when I started. It was built in 1967. The Midlothian campus opened in 2000. The Nursing Education Center opened in 2006. So, there has been a lot of physical growth, and the number of students has just about doubled.
Having more than one campus is really a big kind of change if you think about it. You have two of everything, and you have to go back and forth. Plus, you have to keep track of the nurses!
What’s happening at the college right now that’s exciting to you?
Well, because of the enrollment growth, we’ve really been able to add to the faculty. A college is not about buildings, as much as it is about people. I’ve been really excited that we’ve been able to add faculty members. And, we’re adding nine more in the spring, which is good, because it is really important to have a diverse mix.
Now we have international faculty. We have faculty from India, Vietnam, Turkey, and a couple years ago someone from Wales. I think that’s a good thing for students, because you get to see different kinds of folks.
Another piece is that we’re continuing to look toward adding to both campuses – a building here at Midlothian and a building at Chester. It shows you’re growing when you’re building things.
What’s something you would like to see happen in the future at John Tyler?
I hope you two will graduate. Besides that, let’s see: well, I think it’s pretty much unknown, and that’s what makes it interesting.
As a community college we are responsible for meeting the needs of the community. We have to be alert and tuned in to the community to see what’s needed. For example, right now we are expanding the paramedic and EMS programs. It’s about finding out what’s needed, and stopping things that aren’t needed. If there’s not a demand, then we stop doing it. So it’s being alert to see what the opportunities and expectations are.
Also, we’re getting younger. For years we were getting older and older, and now we’re getting younger and younger. Now, we’re talking more about things that would be of interest to an 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old, as opposed to people who are 30 or 40.
What surprises you about students today?
143. I didn’t know what that was until yesterday. They were telling me all the codes that are used now for texting. Ms. McIver [Web Content Manager at the College] was giving us a lesson in all of it.
If you take them as a whole, I think there’s more uncertainty about the future than there has been in the past student generations. They’re really worried about what their future is going to be like. Each generation sort of has things that interests it and frighten it. But I think that just generally the world is kind of unsettled now.
There are four boys next door in my neighborhood, and one was walking his dog and I was walking mine and he said, “What about France?” He was really concerned, so I think there’s just some apprehension about, “What’s the world coming to this time?”
What are some hobbies you enjoy while you’re not working?
I’m never “not working.” But, this one will prove what you already think about boys: I still build model trains and model ships when I have time to fool around.
I do a great deal of reading, history primarily. That’s what I studied: naval history.
I don’t have a lot of spare time to tell you the truth, but I follow sports. I went to Alabama, so there’s always football.
Tell us about some of your favorite sports and sports teams.
I’m a baseball and football person. Collegiately, it’s Alabama, and professionally, it’s Atlanta. That’s where I lived for a while.
And years ago, when I was your age, I played a good deal of racquetball, but I’m afraid old bones have taken over that – old knees particularly.
What kind of dog do you have?
It’s a Westie, a West Highland Terrier. His whole name is Duncan MacDonald. He’s a Scots dog, so he had to have a Scots’ name.
What do you think about social media and its contribution to the community?
You know about the presentation yesterday? [There there had been a social media presentation at the College the day before.] I thought it was really good for me, because let’s face it: I really am from an older generation. It’s interesting for me to see what kinds of things your generation is interested in.
Social media has made the world a very small place, but I think it’s not something everyone has learned to use responsibly. I think some of your friends and neighbors have realized that nothing done in social media is private, but not all of them have.
Social media certainly makes your generation very connected, and that’s good. However, it’s diminished reading, generally, and being a teeny bit old-fashioned, I still would like to see people read.
So, there you have it! Our interview with the President of John Tyler!