The Oregon Coast Community College Board did something this week that no OCCC board has done in 22 years. Select a new college president. With the recent announcement that OCCC President Pat O’Conner is stepping down after nearly a quarter of a century at the helm, the board must find a replacement for Mr. O’Conner whose guiding hand has produced an impressive record of success in serving the educational needs of the community from Lincoln City to Yachats.
The board says they think they’ve got a good candidate in Bruce Koike, the brains behind the college’s new Aquarium Sciences Program and the drive that spear-headed the new Aquarium Sciences building on the Newport campus. “Koike has the entrepreneurial drive and love of education going for him. I think the college deeply needs both qualities in these challenging times,” said OCCC Board Member Sandra Roumagoux. Roumagoux said Koike is well respected on campus and among his academic peers. Roumagoux said it was Koike’s excitement about establishing an aqaurium sciences program at the college and his commitment to finding the funds and where-with-all to get the Aquarium Sciences Building constructed on time and on budget that impresses her.
Roumagoux says Koike’s appointment as interim president doesn’t mean the search for a permanent replacement won’t go on. It will. But she added that if Koike develops a series of strategies to help the college navigate very lean budget times by enlisting resources from the private sector, both financially and collaboratively, he’ll be just what the college needs. “And he has already demonstrated that he’s adept at both,” she added. “If he performs well, he’ll have a shot at keeping the job, permanently.”
Roumagoux said the college’s immediate future is clouded by reduced state support while demands for education services are going up. She said OCCC and its sister colleges of Tillamook Bay and Clatsop, are already exploring ways to share resources and to employ economies of scale in making each college more efficient. She said “talks are very preliminary but that’s the wave of the future, in my opinion. More distance learning between the three colleges is quite likely going to be the rule.”
Roumagoux said the board will be looking at now President Koike very closely in the months ahead to evaluate his performance at developing a college budget that will continue to move the college forward despite very challenging times.