As time passes, a changing of the guard in this community’s leadership is to be expected. But we are losing a whole regiment of leaders — at once.
Start with the retiring president of the Johnson County Community College, Terry Calaway. The man who has been in charge of one of the finest community colleges in America is saying farewell.
His will not be easy shoes to fill, and the college trustees have hired a search firm to scour the country for someone who is qualified to run this gem, where 44,000 credit and continuing education students make JCCC the largest undergraduate institution of higher education in the state of Kansas.
Among Calaway’s many accomplishments, he probably will be remembered most for the construction — now under way — of the new Hospitality and Culinary Academy. The college’s culinary program is nationally renowned.
Right down the street, at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus, its longtime leader, Vice Chancellor Bob Clark, is stepping down and will return to the classroom to teach.
Under Clark’s watch, the campus has tripled its size and doubled the number of academic programs offered. Today, more than 2,000 students attend each semester and more than 8,000 have earned advanced degrees since the campus opened in 1993.
Yet, those are but the seeds of what’s coming. The campus is expanding to include 10 new undergraduate degrees in business, engineering and science & technology. And a new 75,000-square-foot building was just added to the campus to serve the anticipated explosion of students.
Clark was the first to come up with the idea that local tax dollars might assist fast growth of higher education in the county. That led to the successful passage of the Johnson County Research Triangle.
Further to the south, in Olathe, sits the new International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute at K-State’s innovation campus.
Dan Richardson, who was the first leader of this K-State presence in Johnson County, has just announced his retirement.
The 108,000-square-foot facility is the global center for research in its field. It has already, in its brief history, attracted some of the smartest academic minds in the nation.
K-State has its hands full with this vacancy. They will be seeking a rare individual with the vision Richardson has displayed. And it won’t be easy.
Now head north, to the University of Kansas Medical Center. Its KU Clinical Research Center in Fairway opened in January and is a major part of the KU Cancer Center.
Overseeing this major expansion has been the Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson, who just announced her retirement.
Because of her efforts, and those of other people, the Cancer Center has received the prestigious National Cancer Institute designation. This means patients will have access to clinical trials only available to NCI designated cancer centers. We no longer will have to travel to MD Anderson or the Mayo Clinic to receive the leading-edge treatments for cancer.
What a legacy Atkinson is leaving behind. Following her will be difficult.
The leadership position of the Shawnee Mission District has a “help wanted” sign on it, as Superintendent Gene Johnson just announced his retirement.
The county’s second-largest district, with an enrollment of 27,000 students, serves a district with a population of a quarter million — about half the entire county’s population.
Johnson has met the challenges of massive demographic changes in the district’s student body, while maintaining achievement scores that are well above the state average.
To lose any one of these leaders — each with “Dr.” in front of their names — would be challenging enough. To lose all five at about the same time puts a real strain on the community.
We must be patient. Even the best new candidates will have a learning curve to face in their new jobs.
The community, meanwhile, we will be forced to deal with filling the leadership roles with visionaries who can take us to the next level at each institution.
| Special to The Star