EDITOR's NOTE: One of the original four finalists, Naydeen T. González-De Jesús, vice president of Student Affairs, Bergen Community College, has withdrawn from consideration after accepting another position.
For the first time in its 70-year history, Holyoke Community College will likely have a woman as its president.
All the finalists for the position held most recently by William Messner (2004-2016), and previously by David Bartley (1975-2003) and George Frost (1946-1975), are women with extensive experience in higher education and community college service.
The search committee tasked with finding HCC's fourth president announced the finalists' names today.
The final four were pared down from a list of 11 semi-finalists, culled from 30 applicants who met the "preferred qualifications" established by the search committee and the Pauly Group, the professional firm hired to assist in the selection process.
"Hiring a college president is no small nor easy task," said Robert Gilbert, chair of the HCC Board of Trustees and one of the search committee members. "It is a great responsibility, and we take that responsibility very seriously. It is also a great and exciting opportunity to choose a new leader with both experience and vision. We're quite impressed by all the finalists."
On-campus interviews and visits with the finalists begin Monday with Laura Douglas (Oct. 17-18) and will continue with Julie White (Oct. 25-26) and Christina Royal (Nov. 1-2).
Each finalist will participate in two days of meetings, meals, tours and discussions with the search committee, Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, staff, and students.
Members of the community are invited to attend an open coffee session with each of the candidates at HCC's Picknelly Adult & Family Education Center in downtown Holyoke. (See schedule below).
"We're looking forward to the on-campus interviews with the finalists and have structured their visits to give them the broadest exposure to the campus community," said Gilbert. "We welcome input from all areas of the college and invite members of the community to meet the finalists as well."
While on campus, the finalists will also participate in Skype interviews with Jim Peyser, state secretary of Education, and Carlos Santiago, commissioner of Higher Education.
Once the campus interviews are complete, the trustees will meet Nov. 2 pick their top choice, which needs to be approved by the Board of Higher Education.
President Messner retired in August. William Fogarty, vice president of Administration and Finance, is now serving as interim president of the college.
The new president is expected to be at work at HCC before the start of the Spring 2017 semester.
Additional Background on the Finalists:
Laura L. Douglas, doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education, 2005, University of Michigan; master of arts in Higher Education, 2001, University of Michigan; master of arts, International Administration, 1980, School for International Training; bachelor of arts in Social Welfare, 1982, University of Southern Maine.
Julie A. White, doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership, 2013, University of Rochester; master in Education-Counseling, 1989, Xavier University; bachelor of science, Education, 1985, Miami University.
Christina Royal, doctor of Education, 2007, Capella University; master of arts, Educational Psychology, 2003, Marist College; bachelor of arts, Math, Marist College.
Community coffee with the candidates: All sessions will be held at the Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center, 206 Maple St., Holyoke.
PHOTOS: From left to right, Laura Douglas, Naydeen González-De Jesús, Julie White and Christina Royal