As a proud alumna of Modesto Junior College, I’ve been increasingly concerned about recent articles describing puzzling turnover of presidents at this beloved institution.
If the articles reflect a clear picture of current dysfunctional leadership at MJC (evidenced by its repeated inability to retain well-qualified presidents at the institution), it seems years of valuable time, human and economic resources have been squandered. This represents a tragic and inexcusable loss.
Dysfunction can easily destroy an institution along with everything around it. We must see this situation for what it is. A strong, vibrant community college is necessary for a strong, vibrant community. Dysfunction at MJC is incompatible with a vibrant community.
I believe MJC needs a strong, effective and inspiring president. This individual will bring much-needed stability, a compelling vision and vitality to the community. Someone who will communicate the vision clearly to the students, faculty, administration, business leaders and community at large.
Intellect, integrity, honesty and good character are obvious essential qualities for such a leader. An effective president will understand the community’s most compelling needs, as well as the depth of its many resources, and work tirelessly and effectively with others while creating an exciting path forward for the benefit of all. A strong, effective president will bring enormous value to MJC and the community at large, therefore this individual must be valued for his/her/their important contribution.
Whenever people feel there is real hope for a better future and can see themselves in that future, they will do what is necessary to become part of the story. Without the benefit of an effective, valued leader as president of MJC, the students, faculty and community at large will not only feel devalued but be devalued.
We cannot allow uncertainty, mistrust and chaos to persist at MJC without an inevitable loss of opportunity for this community. Repeating failed strategies under a cloud of dysfunction will not work for MJC or this community. For the good of the institution and the community at large, people must recognize when it’s time to step aside. I may be missing something here, but honestly, I don’t see any other viable option; thoughtful, responsible action is required.
Modesto JC: A beacon of hope
Division, mistrust and a subculture of misinformation exist in our culture today but, I argue, not more so than when I began my academic career at MJC in the summer of 1968.
Our country was in deep social upheaval, having suffered the recent losses of its president, senatorial candidate and a major civil rights leader to assassination. We were in the middle of the Vietnam War, fellow classmates from my hometown were dying, missing on the battlefield or had their lives so badly damaged that real recovery would never truly be attainable.
Student demonstrations throughout the country brought institutions to near-collapse. Deadly race riots filled the streets of our cities with heartbreaking despair. Faith leaders and students were being killed. A deep undercurrent of mistrust in government existed. It was a terrible and frightening time to be an 18-year-old from a small farm town.
Fortunately for me, I saw real opportunity for a brighter future through the lens of MJC. This institution served as a beacon of hope and possibility for me, provided a strong educational foundation for my future pursuits, and a life of opportunities beyond imagination.
The same opportunity exists for MJC and this community. Action is required. We cannot fail.
Nancy Pereira Porteous-Thomas of Modesto received the Outstanding Student Nurse of the Year award in 1970 at Modesto Junior College. She earned more degrees at other universities and later studied architecture at MJC, launching another career.