Central Oregon

COCC's Middleton to step down next year

Early announcement kicks off successor search

BEND, Ore. - Dr. James E. Middleton, president of Central Oregon Community College since 2004, announced Monday he plans to retire as of June 30, 2014.

Middleton said he is making this early announcement – 14 months in advance of his retirement date – in order to help the COCC Board plan for a thorough search.

"President Middleton has been strong leader for Central Oregon Community College during some very difficult years," said Don Reeder, a member of the COCC board of directors for the past 16 years and the current chair.

"His vision has allowed COCC to extend access of college programs to Jefferson and Crook counties, and to expand opportunities on both the Bend and Redmond campuses," he added.

"He has kept COCC moving forward and in great fiscal shape despite the tough economy of the past several years, and the doubling of enrollment," Reeder said. "He will leave this college in a strong position."

Middleton siad, "Serving as president of Central Oregon Community College is an honor and a wonderful opportunity. I am confident the innovation, community support, strong staff and board and overall stability of the institution will allow this college to attract exemplary candidates for the position."

"It is truly a pleasure to serve the students, faculty and staff of COCC, and the residents of the COCC District," he added.

"I am looking forward to the upcoming year as we continue our work on strategic planning, begin new initiatives to help improve the success of our students, and finalize planning and construction of the Redmond Technology Center," he said. "I am committed to assuring that COCC remains positively positioned in a fiscal environment increasingly shaped by student success outcomes."

Middleton encouraged innovation on campus and in college, community and statewide planning.

On campus, he championed and supported a faculty-led redesign of math instruction strategies through individualized computer learning melded with face-to-face classes and individual tutoring. He also supported faculty, staff and infrastructure to expand online learning and hybrid courses, where some instruction for a class is live and some is online.

During his tenure, COCC added instructional programs in aviation, pharmacy technician, veterinarian technician and business entrepreneurship – all in cooperation with and the support of local businesses.

Working with the COCC Foundation, Middleton helped with the fundraising and planning for the expansion of the Cascade Culinary Institute and the building of the Jungers Culinary Center into a "best in the west" program. The construction was funded primarily by a Foundation fundraising effort and ongoing costs are partially covered by the first-ever program endowment.

In the community, Middleton worked closely with local school district superintendents and COCC faculty, resulting in four times as many high school students earning COCC credits while taking classes in their high schools.

He also worked hand-in-hand with Becky Johnson, vice president at OSU-Cascades, and community leaders to ensure a successful expansion of the state's only branch campus. Middleton currently serves as an elected member of the Bend Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Statewide, he is one of two Central Oregonians to serve on the State Board of Higher Education where he continues to advocate for expansion of higher education offerings in the region. He has regularly been tapped for key committee assignments in Oregon, including serving on the executive committee of the Oregon Community College Association, and as a member of task forces working on achievement compacts, outcomes based funding and enrollment management.

"President Middleton has been a significant contributor to state level policy during his tenure as COCC president," said Camille Preus, commissioner of the community colleges in Oregon. "His sharp intelligence and focus on increasing student success have enabled Oregon to make solid steps forward in achieving our educational attainment goals. These attributes are the reason he was often called upon for significant involvement on a variety of critical committees and work groups."

During Middleton's tenure, COCC was recognized three years in a row as one of the 50 fastest-growing community colleges in the country, with enrollment doubling in four years. 

During the recession, voters in the COCC District passed a bond measure that allowed the college to open new campuses in Madras and Prineville, build new Health Careers and Science Centers on the Bend campus and, under construction shortly, build a Technology Education Center in Redmond that will be a cornerstone for training in industries important to economic development in Central Oregon.

Middleton has served more than 30 years as a community college administrator and 10 years as a teacher in high schools and community colleges. Prior to coming to COCC, he was president of the College of Marin in California - from 1993 to 2003.

Subsequently, he served one year as a visiting scholar at the Community College Leadership Development Initiatives at Claremont Graduate University in California. Prior to moving to Marin, he spent 11 years at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport (formally Williamsport Area Community College), first as the director of Integrated Studies for two years and then the dean and vice president of academic affairs for nine years.

In Williamsport, he helped guide the college in its transformation from a local community college to a regional four-year college while retaining a strong community college program of associate degrees and short-term technical certificates. Prior to that, he taught English to high school students in Jamaica and then taught and ran a writing center at a community college in Maryland.

Middleton earned a bachelor's degree in European literature and thought from the University of Iowa; a master's degree in English literature from the University of Leeds in England; a master's degree in English and an educational specialist degree in community college education from the University of Iowa; and a doctorate of arts in English language and literature from the University of Michigan.

He and his wife, Susan, have two grown children.

Bruce Abernethy, board member and next year's board chair, said this early announcement will allow the board to begin work now on planning for the search and a smooth transition.

"We appreciate Dr. Middleton's many years of service to community colleges and particularly to COCC and this region," Abernethy said. "We are in a position of strength and well positioned for the future. We can use this time now to begin to plan for a new president while continuing to move forward on a number of important initiatives. This spring, we will appoint a search committee and begin communicating with constituents on and off campus. We can then get an early start in the fall in order to maximize our applicant pool and position ourselves for success."

Middleton is only the fourth president in COCC's 63-year history. He replaced Dr. Robert L. Barber, who served as president from 1990 to 2004. Dr. Frederick H. Boyle was president from 1967 to 1990. Dr. Don P. Pence was the first president of COCC, serving as director from 1950 to 1957 and president from 1957 to 1967.

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