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Howard Community College Names Four Finalists for Next President

Howard Community College Names Four Finalists for Next President

The Howard Community College Board of Trustees announced today that four candidates have been selected as finalists for the next president of the college. The current president, Dr. Kathleen Hetherington, will retire October 1, 2021.

The four finalists are as follows:

Dr. Chris Gilmer – President of West Virginia University at Parkersburg

Dr. Gilmer has served as president and tenured professor of humanities at West Virginia University at Parkersburg since July 2018. With 3,000 credit students, WVUP is the only institution in West Virginia that is both a community college and bachelor’s degree-granting university. Previously, Dr. Gilmer was the executive director and chief operating officer at Alcorn State University's Vicksburg Center, vice president for academic affairs at Adams State University, chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Tougaloo College, and faculty member at Jackson State University.

Dr. Merrill Irving, Jr. – President of Hennepin Technical College

Since 2015, Dr. Irving has led Hennepin Technical College as president, serving over 17,000 students across two campuses. Prior to his presidency, Dr. Irving was the associate vice president of continuing education, training, and workforce development at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois. He also served as chair of The School of Continuing Education and Professional Development at the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College. His other higher education experience includes serving as biosciences program chair at Miami Dade College, and an academic advisor and adjunct faculty member at West Virginia University.

Dr. Julie Leidig – Provost of Northern Virginia Community College Loudon Campus

At the second largest campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), Dr. Leidig has been responsible for more than 17,000 students since joining the institution in 2010. Currently, she has academic leadership for science programs across NVCC’s campuses and led the development of guided pathways in science and technology programs. Prior to NVCC, Dr. Leidig was vice president for instruction at Lone Star College in Texas, and director of instructional programs, assistant director of instructional programs, and program director at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Division of Community and Technical Colleges.

Dr. Daria Willis – President of Everett Community College

Dr. Willis has guided Everett Community College as its president since July 2019. Serving over 18,000 students, Everett Community College is located to the north of the Seattle metropolitan area. Dr. Willis previously was the provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Onondaga Community College. Other experience includes dean of academic studies at Lee College, executive dean of centers and dean of instruction at the Greenspoint and Victory Centers at the Lone Star College-North Harris, and department chair of social and behavioral sciences and kinesiology at Lone Star College-University Park.

“The finalists represent a highly qualified, diverse, and dynamic group of higher education leaders who are passionate about community colleges and the opportunity to serve as the fifth president of Howard Community College,” said Christopher G. Marasco, chair of the Howard Community College Board of Trustees.

The next step in the presidential search process is a series of on-campus visits in early October. During the visits, faculty, staff, and students will have an opportunity to meet with the finalists and ask questions. The finalists will also participate in interviews with the board of trustees.

The board of trustees has been assisted throughout this process by the presidential search committee and AGB Search, a higher education executive search firm. The committee consists of representatives from the board of trustees, faculty, staff, and student body, the Howard Community College Educational Foundation, and the business community.

The search process began in early June when the college held listening sessions and conducted a survey of the college community to help inform the presidential profile, which outlines the attributes, experiences, and credentials that HCC is seeking for its next president, as well as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the selected candidate. The presidential search committee reviewed submitted materials from candidates in July and August before conducting interviews.

After Dr. Hetherington, president of Howard Community College, retires on October 1, 2021, Lynn Coleman, vice president of administration and finance, will assume the role of interim president until a new president is appointed and in place at the college.

For more information about the presidential search profile and search timeline, visit

Topics: Announcements
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