College president candidate an experienced hand at community colleges

Ron Liss

Ron Liss, who has worked in community colleges around the country since 1982, said he has at least 10 more years in his career to give Clatsop Community College, where he visited Wednesday as one of four finalists for the presidency.

Liss, 61, flew in from Cleveland, where he was briefly vice president and special adviser for workforce, community and economic development at Cuyahoga Community College, the largest community college in Ohio.

“What doesn’t show on my resume, is I’m unemployed right now,” Liss said.

Liss had served as president of Cuyahoga’s western campus from 2013 to 2015, but was removed by the college’s top president. The change was not performance-based, Liss said, but rather part of a shuffling that included replacement of presidents at three out of the college’s four campuses over the past two years. The president told him his new position was temporary, Liss said, which got him thinking about the future.

Liss said he learned about the post in Astoria through the Association of Community College Trustees, which conducted the search for candidates. His wife, Anita, has been an adjunct instructor, along with a bereavement counselor at the Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland. The two have a daughter and a grandchild.

“I’m looking for a smaller institution in a smaller community I can have a personal connection with,” he said.

As president, Liss said one of his biggest roles is to represent the college not just on campus, but in the community as well at cultural events and as an advocate locally and at the state level.

After starting his educational career with five years as a high school electronics teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, Liss said he was told about a summer teaching opportunity at Community College of Baltimore County to retrain unemployed workers through the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act and quickly became enamored.

“What we do in community colleges is not a step down from anyone,” Liss said, adding community colleges are part transfer degrees, part career-technical training.

Liss taught at the Baltimore college from 1982 to 1992 and served in its administration until 1997.

He spent the next decade in various administrative positions at Montgomery College, in Rockville, Maryland, ultimately becoming director of academic and student services. From 2007 to 2013, he was a vice president for academic affairs at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico, before joining Cuyahoga Community College.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Liss said his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher, adding his family wanted him to go directly to a four-year institution. He earned a bachelor’s of industrial sciences from State University of New York, a master’s in instructional systems development from the University of Maryland and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from American University in Washington, D.C.

Along with Liss, Glenn Smith, the executive vice provost for student services and enrollment management at Concordia University in Portland, visited this week.

The final two of the four finalists for Clatsop Community College’s presidency visit next week. Christopher Breitmeyer, the vice president for academic and student affairs at St. Charles Community College in Missouri, will have a public meet-and-greet from 3 to 4 p.m. March 10 in Columbia Hall Room 221. Christopher Dyer, the CEO and president of the University of New Mexico-Gallup, visits with the public from 3 to 4 p.m. March 11 in Columbia Hall Room 219.

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