Pa. Educator Is Named to Head Montgomery College

By Jennifer Lenhart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The board of trustees of Montgomery College named Brian K. Johnson, a community college administrator with two decades of experience in the field, as its new president yesterday.

Johnson, 50, chief executive of the Allegheny campus of the Community College of Allegheny County, Pa., was introduced to an audience of several hundred teachers, students and staff who gathered in the Robert E. Parilla performing arts center on the college's Rockville campus.

"We are confident that our new president will . . . successfully lead Montgomery College into our future," Sylvia Crowder, who chairs the board, said in a speech just before inviting Johnson to join her onstage.

"I am deeply moved by this opportunity," Johnson said. "This is an exceptional college. . . . This is the college that is the envy of many other colleges." He was greeted with a standing ovation.

In his first comments as the person selected to lead the college, which has a quickly growing and rapidly diversifying student population, Johnson highlighted his commitment to advocating affordable tuition and equal access to educational opportunities.

"Transition is coming in the next few weeks and months, and I promise to be an advocate for you," he said. "And I hope that we will embrace change -- change that is responsive."

Montgomery College has an enrollment of about 8,800 full-time and 14,100 part-time students working toward a degree, an increase of 18 percent since 1999. An additional 30,000 people are taking non-credit courses. This year, for the first time since 1984, tuition did not increase. Courses cost between $93 and $257 per credit hour, depending on where students live.

Johnson, who will receive an annual salary of $220,000, will start early next year. The current president, Charlene R. Nunley, is retiring after seven years in the job.

Johnson spent the past three years in senior-level administrative positions at the Allegheny campus of the Pittsburgh-based community college, the largest in Pennsylvania with an enrollment of about 30,000 full- and part-time students.

During his tenure there, Johnson launched programs to help improve academic achievement among the campus's 20,000 students and led a $1 million renovation project of the student lounge and theater, according to Helen Kaiser, the school's director of public relations.

His work at Allegheny came after a 17-year career at Mesa Community College in Arizona, part of the Maricopa Community College District, in a variety of management and senior-level administrative positions, including a stint as dean of students.

He has a doctorate in education and a master of arts degree from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Ottawa University in Phoenix.

The announcement of Johnson's appointment to the job of president of the 60-year-old community college ended a six-month nationwide search and the review of more than 70 applicants.

Johnson was one of three finalists brought to Montgomery last month to visit the school's three campuses, said Steve Simon, the college's director of communications.

The campus visits included informal sessions with faculty, students and the public. Crowder said in her speech that she had found Johnson to be "a great learner and listener" and a champion of opportunities for students enrolled in community colleges.

"He was the best fit for Montgomery College," Crowder said after the announcement.

The expected retirement of about 40 percent of the college's faculty and staff in the next five years is one of the challenges the new president will face, Crowder said.

The college, with an annual operating budget of $180.2 million, has campuses in Germantown, Takoma Park-Silver Spring and Rockville and offers associate degrees in arts, science, applied science, teaching and fine arts as well as many certificate programs.

Next year, the college plans to start its largest fundraising effort.

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