Mourning two community college 'icons'

Both received AACC awards

Two community college titans died over the holiday break, reports Community College Daily.

Bill Priest and Robert McCabe had each received the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Leadership Award, given to individuals whose "accomplishments and professional contributions" were "outstanding."

"These two men are icons in the truest sense of the word," says AACC President Walter Bumphus.

The 'very embodiment of leadership'

Priest, 97, who died on Dec. 31, was known for "his passion to build a college system that would provide all residents, no matter their financial means, an opportunity to attain a good college education," writes Community College Daily.

After serving in World War II, and earning his master's and doctoral degrees, he taught history at a community college in California and then entered the administration at another. He also helped found American River Junior College and was Los Rios Junior College District's superintendent.

The man was the "very embodiment of leadership" and "a community leader first and a college leader second," says Joe May, CCCD's current chancellor.

He served as the first chancellor of Dallas County Community College District (CCCD), holding his position for 16 years after being named to it in 1965.

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In his role, he directed development and expansion of the district, which now includes seven colleges, five community education campuses, and the Dallas Colleges Online. Many centers and institutes bear his name.

In addition, he served on the boards of AACC and American Council on Education, as well as helping to found the League for Innovation in the Community College.

'One of the brightest and most committed leaders'

McCabe, 86, who died Dec. 23, was noted for his work on access and developmental education. 

He graduated from the college leadership program at the University of Texas-Austin and started out as an assistant to the president of Dade County Junior College. He then served as the executive vice president of Miami Dade Community College for ten years before becoming its president in 1980.

During his 16 years as CEO, he grew the college to the largest in the U.S.—it was the first community college to graduate 100,000 students. Additionally, he helped found the New World School of Arts.

"He was one of the brightest and most committed leaders to champion the needs of underserved students," says Bumphus.

McCabe was also one of the first to push for quality and completion at community colleges. Under his watch, the Miami-Dade implemented a plan to improve student course selection and placement, resulting in it becoming a 1987 AACC case study. 

His novel education methods earned him a spot as a 1992 MacArthur Fellow.

In retirement, he wrote several books and served as a senior fellow in the League for Innovation in the Community College and as the executive director of the National Alliance of Community Technical Colleges (Community College Daily, 1/5; American Association of Community Colleges leadership award).

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