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BEST educational leadership: Parkland College’s Tom Ramage

From our BEST 2020 feature:

BEST educational leadership: Parkland College’s Tom Ramage

Over the course of just 53 years, Parkland College has only had five Presidents. That means that through a democratically elected Board of Directors, these people have held the faith of dozens of members to not only keep their jobs, but to be put in the position to guide the college into new and uncharted territory, time and time again. Making it even more impressive, two of those five leaders only lasted one or two years. So, for the vast majority of the college’s history, a single leader was in place for a very, very long time. 

Tom Ramage is the latest in that short line of leaders. When he announced last year that he would retire in 2023 after sixteen years at the helm, passing the torch to current VP Pam Lau, it felt like a no brainer. Not because he was no longer equipped, or didn’t have another decade in him (he will only be 55 years old when he departs the position). It made sense because, by all accounts, President Ramage, like his predecessors, understands the value of staying long enough to be effective, but not long enough to interrupt the importance of changed leadership in order for new ideas and programs to take root. 

I have seen first hand what this type of leadership can bring to a community. Mike Ross at Krannert Center. Joan Dixon at Community Foundation. Bobbie Herakovich at Champaign Park District. Steve Carter at City of Champaign. Ervin Williams at Restoration Urban Ministries.  

It isn’t always a positive thing, of course. But in Parkland’s case, it’s led them to being considered one of the finest community colleges in the nation. President Ramage has consistently been a voice of reason, and has steered the college into greener pastures, through two collapsed economies, and through the heart of the infancy of online education. 

That he was given a chance to voice his feelings about the heir to his time as President says so much about the faith that the Board of Trustees has put into his leadership, and in this moment, it is a breath of fresh air to see that sort of trust at this high level of governance. (Seth Fein)

Top image by Parkland College.

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