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President of Portland Community College announces plans to retire next year
Photos and Story by James Hill
Preston Pulliams, district president of Portland Community College, announced his plans to retire from the college next year, July 2013, at PCC’s Board of Directors meeting Thursday night. He has served as PCC’s president since May 2004, and is perhaps best known for leading Oregon’s largest college through a dramatic surge in enrollment while state funding for public education has declined, tirelessly seeking other resources and looking for more efficient ways to help serve the region’s educational needs.
“The leadership that Dr. Pulliams has brought to the college has created outstanding new opportunities for students and for our community – and we are deeply appreciative of his commitment,” said Jim Harper, chair of the PCC Board of Directors.
“Dr. Pulliams has made a huge impact on PCC, and the Board remains committed to the important initiatives launched under his leadership. His announcement gives us the time to launch an inclusive, thorough process to find his successor,” Harper said.
During Pulliams’ time at the college, he worked to increase the college’s visibility among community and business leaders, sharing his vision for increasing access to higher education and ensuring that students have the best opportunities to succeed. PCC’s full-time enrollment has grown 40% since 2006-07, serving students who are pursuing degrees and certificates, skill building for job transitions, high school diplomas, continuing education and personal development.
One of the most significant achievements during Pulliams’ tenure was the passage of a $374 million bond measure in 2008, the largest educational bond measure in Oregon. Funding from the bond has allowed PCC to engage in ongoing work to increase the number of classrooms, expand workforce training programs, and modernize facilities throughout the college district. This has included PCC’s 100,000-square-foot Willow Creek Center in Hillsboro, which opened in 2010, and the Newberg Center, which opened in 2011. Pulliams’ leadership in the bond effort will continue to move the college forward when significant construction and renovation at the four main campuses begins this year.
The first member of his family to attend college, Pulliams has been passionate about creating high quality educational opportunities for students who would not otherwise have the chance to earn a college degree – he has often said his vision is to guarantee everyone the opportunity to earn a degree at PCC regardless of one’s ability to pay. Under his leadership, annual contributions to the PCC Foundation increased significantly, and scholarship awards to students tripled. Pulliams also was instrumental in steering a partnership between PCC and the City of Portland to create the Future Connect Scholarships Program, and he championed efforts with Portland Public Schools to redesign Jefferson High School to become the Jefferson Middle College. Both initiatives took a critical step toward realizing his vision – for some of the region’s most needy students.
In 2007 Pulliams signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, starting PCC on a multi-decade path to reduce its carbon emissions and prioritize sustainability. The College’s goal is that all new facilities meet at least LEED Silver standards, and three of the first bond projects – the Willow Creek, Downtown and Newberg Centers – have exceeded that standard.
“Being president of Portland Community College has been the best job I have ever had,” said Pulliams. “I am passionate about the role PCC plays in helping students achieve their dreams, and how the college supports economic development and enhances the quality of life in our region. It’s been an honor to lead this amazing institution. As PCC looks back on its first 50 years, I know the college is destined to have an even greater role in creating educational and economic opportunity in our community for the next 50 years, and beyond.”
The PCC Board of Directors has announced that a national search for a new president will begin this spring, and that the effort will involve the Board, faculty, staff, students, and members of the broader community.
Upon retirement, Pulliams plans to pursue a consulting practice helping other college boards in their executive searches, as well as travel and enjoy time with his grandson. He intends to maintain his connections to the Portland area.
Prior to coming to PCC, Pulliams served as vice-chancellor for Community Colleges for the State University of New York (SUNY), where he coordinated and directed activities of the 30 community colleges in the SUNY system. Before joining the SUNY administration, Pulliams served as president of Orange County Community College in Middletown, N.Y., from 1997 to 2003. From 1993 to 1997 he was president of the Highland Lakes Campus of the Oakland Community College District in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Pulliams is a community college graduate, earning his associate degree in science from Michigan’s Muskegon Community College. He received a bachelor’s degree in social science from Michigan State University, a master’s degree in counseling and personnel from Western Michigan University, and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Michigan.
Pulliams has garnered several regional awards over the course of his career, being named college CEO of the year by the Association of Community College Trustees, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations. He serves as a member of the Oregon Board of Higher Education.