GCCC president to step down





Citing the need to focus on her health after having served as Garden City Community College president for the past 10 years, Carol Ballantyne announced her retirement Tuesday night at a special meeting of the college's Board of Trustees.

The board unanimously accepted Ballantyne's retirement, which is effective Thursday. Trustee Steve Sterling was absent.

"It was my career dream to serve as the president of an outstanding institution like GCCC, a school that cares about the success of every student," Ballantyne wrote in her letter of resignation. "Over the course of the past 10 years, I've thoroughly enjoyed that opportunity every single day."

Ballantyne, 62, said the responsibilities of the job have become more difficult for her to maintain in recent years. She suffered a stroke in January 2009, and she said this morning that her lack of mobility has compromised her ability to do her job as she believes it needs to be done.

"I need, in this position, to be visible in the community and in the (campus) buildings," said Ballantyne, adding that she had been weighing the decision for quite some time, but made the decision on Friday. "And I just don't feel like I can do the job I need to do."

After accepting Ballantyne's resignation, the board voted unanimously to appoint a management team of three college deans to handle administrative duties until an interim president can be hired. The team will include Dee Wigner, executive dean of administrative services; Kevin Brungardt, dean of academics; and Lenora Cook, dean of technical education. GCCC's presidential succession plan provides for the vacancy to be filled for up to 90 days by one or more appointed deans, while an interim and then a permanent president is sought.

Wigner, who admitted she was taken off-guard by Ballantyne's decision, said the positive changes the college has undergone in the last decade under Ballantyne's leadership are many.

"All you need to do is walk around the campus (to see) Carol Ballantyne has touched this campus," Wigner said.

Della Brandenburger, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, echoed those sentiments.

"Carol has done so much for the college. She's a good friend of mine, and she has taught me so much about the college and has made me so passionate about the college," Brandenburger said. "We will miss her, but we wish her the best of luck."

The college most likely will enlist the help of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees in its search for an interim president, Brandenburger said.

"We will move forward as quickly as possible, but you never know how long this process might take," Brandenburger said.

During Ballantyne's tenure, which began in July 2000, GCCC completed the construction of residential apartments in 2002 to deal with increased housing demands and built the Beth Tedrow Student Center, which opened in 2004. In 2006, the college opened the Student and Community Services Center, completing a key objective Ballantyne set shortly after being hired, to consolidate enrollment and student service offices in one location to better assist students and the public.

Under Ballantyne's leadership, GCCC has added programs in Emergency Medical Services Technology and Fire Science, added an LPN program to the Registered Nursing Program, and expanded Allied Health education. In a cooperative partnership with the city of Garden City, the college opened the Southwest Kansas Fire Training Center in 2008, and in 2009, GCCC dedicated the Erdene Corley Simulation Lab, a state-of-the-art health care training facility added to the Penka Building of Practical Arts and Sciences.

Other facility improvements during Ballantyne's tenure include lab, classroom and infrastructure renovations at the Warren Fouse Science and Math Building, and similar improvements under way in the Academic Building through the use of stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"I don't want to be seen as the 'building queen,'" Ballantyne said, jokingly, but then added, "We have gotten the campus back up to maintainable."

Ballantyne also said making the college more data driven, computer upgrades that have taken place under her leadership and the success of the college's policy governance system are accomplishments she is proud of.

The college's faculty and staff deserve much credit, Ballantyne said.

"There are a lot of things I feel good about," Ballantyne said. "And this is one great staff. I'd put it up against any community college in the country."

Also during Ballantyne's tenure, GCCC switched to the Academic Quality Improvement Program's system of academic accreditation in 2003, and this spring earned continuing accreditation renewal through 2016-17 from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

She initiated a review of administrative policies, instituted an internal governance system to involve employees at all levels in decision-making, and developed an annual planning process that draws campus-wide input. She also launched a campus leadership program to develop leadership skills among members of the faculty and staff.

Before coming to GCCC, Ballantyne served in leadership positions at St. Charles Community College in Missouri, Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska and Kirkwood Community College in Iowa. She helped create a new community college in Missouri in the 1980s.

Ballantyne earned the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction in 2006 from the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society of the Two-Year College, for support and advocacy of academic achievement. She also earned the Crider Center for Mental Health Hero Award in 1999, and the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the College of Education at the University of Iowa, where she completed her master of arts and doctorate degrees.

She has been active on the Finney County Workforce Development Board, Public Entities Board, Three Entities Steering Committee, GCCC Endowment Association Board, Rotary Club, Habitat for Humanity and Council of Kansas Community College Presidents. She also served on the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Ballantyne earned her bachelor of science degree at Northeast Missouri State University, and an associate in arts degree at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa.

"I appreciate all that she has done, not just locally for our college, but also the way she has been so pro-community college at the national level," said Trustee Terri Worf. "When you go to national meetings with her, you see how she has earned the respect of her peers."

The management team of deans is expected to meet weekly with the Board of Trustees, probably at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, with the sessions open to the public.

The next regular meeting of the trustees is scheduled for July 14, when the board will discuss and make considerations for the 2010-11 budget. A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for Aug. 11.

The college, under Ballantyne's guidance, has been preparing for a difficult budget year in 2010-11.

Even with Ballantyne's departure, Wigner is confident the college will be able to move forward and face the looming cuts and perhaps even more difficult budget decisions in the future.

"We're not going to skip a beat as far as the budget is concerned," Wigner said. "I think we have an amazing team, and we're all going to pull together."

Ballantyne, meanwhile, said she plans to move back to her home state of Iowa, probably in the Iowa City or Cedar Rapids area, to be close to family.

"You don't live forever," Ballantyne said. "You may as well get out while the gettin's good," Ballantyne said.

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