Community College of Vermont’s flagship Winooski academic center will be renamed the Tim Donovan Academic Center in honor of the Vermont State Colleges’ retiring chancellor and his 38 years of service to the Vermont State Colleges.
Donovan was honored in a brief ceremony on Thursday evening following a Vermont State Colleges (VSC) Board of Trustees meeting at Castleton State College yesterday. During the ceremony presidents from each of the five colleges spoke along with board members, friends, and college staff. Each took to the podium with memories of Donovan as the inspirational leader, the friend, the mentor, and the technology-advisor, but one message remained a constant in each story: Donovan’s commitment and love for the Vermont State College system.
“There’s no question you truly love the VSC,” said Gary Moore, former chairman of the VSC Board of Trustees. “Your dedication to students, is just, I don’t even know how to describe it…I’ve followed you around to all of our colleges and probably two-thirds of the CCV sites, and everytime we’re together, every time we’re on a campus, everything you talk about is what’s good for the students. That’s what makes this college system special.”
Vermont Tech President Dan Smith recalled a time immediately following Tropical Storm Irene that symbolized Donovan’s commitment to the colleges and also the reason he’s had so much success over the course of his career with the VSC. Following the storm, the VSC’s offices were flooded out, leaving the computer network for all five colleges out of commission, Smith said. With fall registration underway, Donovan, along with Smith and a small team spent a number of days knee-deep in flood-waters and mud cobbling the system back together so that students could get themselves registered for classes.
“The lesson I took away is that there’s no task that we’re too big to do…” Smith said. “You wonder how a guy builds the trust and the credibility to take on big challenges over 38 years in a system like the state colleges, it’s because he’s willing to do the favors people ask and there’s no task he’s not willing to do, and that’s a lesson I’m going to take with me for the rest of my career and the rest of my life, and I’m eternally grateful for that.”
Stories similar to Smith’s came one after another throughout the evening, as did remarks about Donovan’s impact on the Community College of Vermont. As president of CCV from 2001 to 2009, Donovan oversaw dramatic enrollment increases, the construction of CCV’s first built-to-own facility in Wilder, and the creation of the College’s study abroad program. Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Administration and the VSC’s incoming chancellor Jeb Spaulding highlighted Donovan’s achievements at CCV, stating that there is no doubt the College hit it’s stride under his leadership.
“Someday, when people look back and say ‘wow, who was it that provided the leadership to turn what was a place that was wonderful but much smaller, a place without any owned facilities, into a place that has really been an entry-point for many Vermont students into their post-secondary education plans, and a place so integral to the state’s economic development and key to its vibrancy in the future,’ they’ll say Tim Donovan,” Spaulding said.
The stories and heartfelt thanks came along with some light ribbing, a lot of laughs, and many tokens of appreciation. Red Sox novelties, a watch, a placard bearing the Donovan family crest were all given in gratitude for nearly four-decades of dedicated service to Vermont’s public college system. But it was CCV President Joyce Judy who surprised Donovan and much of the crowd on Thursday when she stood before the crowd, thanked Donovan for his service, and proceeded to read a resolution passed by the VSC that day renaming CCV’s largest academic center after him.
After a poster-board displaying a photograph of the four-story facility in downtown Winooski with mocked-up signage was unveiled, Donovan was left almost speechless. Almost, because after thanking everyone and acknowledging that the honor he had just received was beyond words, the outgoing chancellor concluded with a message similar to the one he’s been preaching since joining the VSC: it’s about the students.
“Please don’t lose site of the purposes for why these colleges exist,” he said. “They don’t exist for the purposes of the legislature. They don’t exist as employment agencies, even though we come to them from some of those perspectives. They exist to educate Vermonters and to see that this state has the benefits of an educated citizenry and an educated workforce…Please, stay focused on what’s important, and continue the hard work that you all do.”