The Clark College Board of Trustees unanimously appointed Sandra Fowler-Hill, a retired Portland Community College president, as the community college’s interim president for the next year.
The board also voted at a Tuesday meeting to move President Bob Knight’s retirement up by more than a month, setting his last day at the college on July 15 so the new interim president can step in. Knight will leave the college after 15 years, 13 as its president.
“We are starting a new heartbeat,” board Chair Jane Jacobsen said at the special meeting.
The college must still negotiate Fowler-Hill’s salary and benefits for the yearlong appointment.
Fowler-Hill received the spot over Debra Derr, retired Mt. Hood Community College president, and Gwendolyn Joseph, who has a long career serving as interim president at schools across the country. Fowler-Hill retired last year from the PCC Rock Creek Campus, located west of Portland, according to her resume.
Among her accomplishments, Fowler-Hill lists the opening of the Center for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Center, to support undocumented immigrants at the college. Fowler-Hill told The Hillsboro Tribune in 2018 that political uncertainty in Washington, D.C., over undocumented students makes the already stressful time of attending college even worse.
“In addition to family concerns and deportation risk, students have the uncertainty of what scholarships they can quality for and whether they can find work to pay for school,” she told the newspaper. “It all weighs heavily on them.”
Prior to her time at PCC Rock Creek, Fowler-Hill was the executive vice president of instruction and student services at Everett Community College, and also spent 19 years at Olympic College in Bremerton.
Fowler-Hill will not be eligible to replace Knight as the college’s permanent president. According to a Clark College web page about the search, the interim president will focus on the transition from one president to another without receiving preferential treatment when the time comes to appoint Knight’s successor.
The decision comes after two months of interviews and meetings with candidates recommended by Gold Hill Associates. The firm will also recruit a permanent successor to Knight by the 2020-2021 school year. Clark is paying the firm $45,000 plus travel fees.
Trustee Rekah Strong said the college would have been “tremendously lucky” with any of the candidates.
“This was not an easy decision for us to finalize,” she said. “These were very top-caliber individuals that would have done a magnificent job.”
Trustee Paul Speer said the interest in the position speaks to Clark College’s strong reputation as a community college.
“I think this is a really neat time for Clark College and where things are heading,” he said.