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RCC names Valerie Roberson as college president

College also names Gerald Chertavian as chairman of the board of trustees

Howard Manly | 5/29/2013, 4:54 p.m.

— Two new appointments last week at Roxbury Community College signal a new beginning in leadership at the 40 year-old institution.

The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education approved the RCC Board of Trustees’ selection of Valerie R. Roberson, Ph.D., as the new president effective July 22. The Board’s vote for Dr. Roberson, now serving as vice president of academic affairs at Joliet Junior College in Illinois, was unanimous.

Roberson is RCC’s 15th president, and she succeeds Linda Edmunds Turner, who has served as interim president at RCC since the abrupt resignation of President Terrence Gomes in 2012.

In addition to Roberson’s appointment, Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Gerald Chertavian as chairman of the Roxbury Community College Board of Trustees.

Chertavian, the founder and CEO of Year Up, an intensive one-year training and education program for urban young adults, fills the seat held by Chairwoman Kathy Taylor. She now joins the Patrick Administration as director of the Office of Workforce Coordination at the Department of Higher Education.

Chertavian founded Year Up in 2000, and the non-profit now serves more than 1,900 students in 11 cities. In 2008, Gov. Patrick appointed Chertavian to serve on the Massachusetts’ State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, where he focused on college and career readiness for young people across the state. His appointment was effective last Friday.

“These appointments allow RCC to continue to build a strong foundation for its future under Gerald’s leadership while also tapping the expertise of Kathy to build stronger workforce development pipelines across our state,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. “We know RCC’s best days are ahead, and with continued strong and determined leadership the school’s full promise will come to life.”

Since it was established 40 years ago in the Grove Hall section of Roxbury, RCC has periodically lapsed into mismanagement. Randolph Bromery, former chancellor of UMass Amherst, was brought in as interim president in 2002 to straighten out serious financial problems. He insisted on a role in hiring a permanent successor — Gomes in 2003.

Patrick chose Turner to serve as interim president last December after Gomes resigned last summer following reports of sexual assault allegations on campus that were not investigated and delays in distributing federal financial aid. Patrick also replaced most of RCC’s board, which was criticized for lax oversight.

Roberson comes to RCC with more than three decades of experience in college administration. Before working at Joliet Junior College, considered to be the nation’s first public community college, Roberson served for five years as president of Olive-Harvey College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Olive-Harvey’s student body is heavily African American, increasingly Hispanic and six times bigger than RCC’s. Roberson has been at Joliet since 2010 and has been a finalist for the top job at Midwestern community colleges.

Last fall, just over 1,700 full-time students were enrolled in Roxbury Community College’s 29 degree programs and 11 certificate programs at its Southwest Corridor campus. The College will celebrate its 40th anniversary in September 2013.

“Dr. Roberson is a strong leader who has the skill and experience to push RCC to new heights,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone in a prepared statement. “With this vote, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and the Roxbury Community College Board of Trustees created a tremendous opportunity to improve economic and academic outcomes for the greater Roxbury area.”

Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Richard M. Freeland also praised the appointment of Chertavian. “As a nationally known entrepreneur and champion of urban youth, he will be a huge asset to the RCC community,” Freeland said. “We are most fortunate to have a man of Chertavian’s stature.”