The fall semester at MCC ended peacefully and we all went home, blissfully ignorant of the sea change that would occur in the spring semester's first week. The first news we received during our all-campus meeting the week before classes started was that our president was leaving for a similar position at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, all the way across the state from us. The only surprising thing about the move was that it seemed to be more lateral than up, which is the direction most of thought he would go. College presidents as a whole are campus politicians and as such, are seldom short on ego or self-confidence and Michael Chipps wasn't either. That's why we were surprised at the parallel move.
In addressing us last week, Dr. Chipps said he found a "tired" institution when he first came here several years ago. I disagree with that characterization because I don't think we were "tired" at all. We most certainly were in a state of disarray and confusion about the future of this college after two sub-par presidents and an interim president in a row but we weren't tired. But Dr. Chipps brought us focus, progress, and stability and, as a result of those things, we're a much better institution now than we were when he came, and I told him that after our campus meeting last week. I served on the selection committee that picked him to be our president and, as the MCC Faculty Association president, hope to serve on the next presidential selection committee as well.
Chipps' resignation was to be effective no later than the first of July but the Mid-Plains Board of Governors, which met Wednesday night in North Platte, released him from his contract effective midnight that same night, which again is what most of us thought they would do. The board president, Elizabeth Benjamin of McCook, couched her remarks in far more politically correct terms than I would have, but the message was essentially the same: If you don't want to be here, we don't want you here.
He likely would have spent a lion's share of his time working with people at Northeast in conjunction with his new job instead of his old one here and it was imperative that this college move on as quickly as possible so that's what the board did. As the long and extended search for a new president begins, Ryan Purdy has been named as interim president of the college and he'll do a good job. He has held different leadership positions within the college over the past several years and is liked and respected by most.
But Chipps' resignation was only the first shoe to fall. Dr. Richard Tubbs, the vice-president of McCook Community College announced his retirement, effective at the end of June immediately after Chipps announced his. I've never referred to him as the CEO because that's a business term rather than an educational term, like calling students "customers" as some in our Administration do.
We knew that Richard was getting close to retirement, but a lot of people were shocked that the two of them resigned at the same time, because of the leadership void we'll be facing entering the new academic year in August. The comment I heard most often after the meeting was "what do they know that we don't?"
But then the plot thickened even more following the board meeting on Wednesday night. Thursday morning, Dr. Tubbs called a short all-campus meeting to announce he had given his two-week notice and would be leaving the first week in February instead of the last week in June. So he's not even going to finish out the academic year with the people he has always expressed such loyalty to, and both he and Dr. Chipps will be leaving before their crowning achievements are finished; the completion of the Health Complex in North Platte and the Event Center in McCook.
I have faith in Ryan Purdy to keep our ship afloat as we go through the long arduous process of finding another full-time president and my sources tell me the person soon be named acting (rather than interim)Vice-President is someone most of us look forward to working with as well so we'll survive and the college will survive.
Unless Chipps and Tubbs really DO know something the rest of us don't.