November 28, 2012

Fulbright scholar named new president of Kennebec Valley Community College

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

World Bank education specialist Richard Hopper, 49, of Westport Island, was named the new president of Kennebec Valley Community College Wednesday.

Hopper, who is scheduled to start April 22, was recommended by Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons and approved during a regular meeting of the board of trustees.

Hopper is a Fulbright scholar and has received a doctorate in of education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, according to a press release announcing his hiring.

He said on Wednesday that he has provided guidance and advice to governments and higher education institutions around the world during his 13 years with the World Bank.

Hopper said he anticipates significant challenges in Fairfield.

"Most people would agree we're in a tight economic period. Resources are slim," he said. "Everyone is being asked to do more with less. I think KVCC is no exception to this and we'll have to face these challenges."

He said that thinking creatively will help the college to maintain the quality and affordability of its education.

Hopper grew up in Connecticut and spent his summers at a family camp in South Bristol, where his mother is buried. His father lives in Freeman. He has lived in Westport Island for the past year, and lived in the Kyrgyz Republic before that.

"One of the great things about this profession is I've had the privilege of traveling and seeing many higher education systems around the world. But it's also great to be coming home. I'm looking forward to regaining my roots and putting my suitcase away for a while."

A house for the president is being built on the college's campus. Hopper, who is unmarried, said he will live in Fairfield until it is completed.

"One of the things I'm most looking forward to is getting a dog," he said. "I'll have to find the dog shelter in Fairfield. I'm a sucker for strays."

Hopper will succeed Barbara Woodlee, who will have been president at the college for 30 years when she retires in April. Woodlee first announced her retirement in 2010, but when two national searches failed to yield a successor, she agreed to stay on until a replacement could be found. Woodlee will continue to work as the college system's part-time academic officer.

Hopper said Woodlee has helped create a positive atmosphere at the college.

"You feel immediately from the students and faculty a great affection for the institution," he said. "That culture doesn't just happen. Barbara and a great team have developed this culture and I want to make sure that it remains intact. Some things you don't want to mess with."

Hopper said he will have to learn more from the college community before he establishes goals about how to best move the institution forward.

The college is in the midst of the largest expansion in its history. It recently acquired 700 acres from Good Will-Hinckley on U.S. Route 201. Good Will-Hinckley, a residential school founded in 1889, closed its core operations in 2009 for financial reasons. It opened the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in September 2011.

Hopper, coincidentally, grew up Guilford, Conn., the hometown of the school's founder, George Walter Hinckley.

Before joining the World Bank, he held a variety of positions in higher education, including advisor for the Freeman Asian Scholars program at Wesleyan University, director of the American College Program for a university in Switzerland, co-director of the International Space University Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and academic director of Japan Semester Abroad for an international nonprofit education organization.

The other two finalists considered for the post were Charles Collins, of Portland, state director of the community college system's Early College for ME program; and William A. Nevious, of Derry, N.H., former president of the recently closed Chester College of New England.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287
mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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