He may have agreed only to “a little cake after the board meeting,” but Metropolitan Community College Chancellor Mark James’ final Board of Trustees meeting involved a bit more than that.
James, MCC’s chancellor since 2010, was presented with two resolutions of commendation (one from the College, one from Kansas City Mayor Sly James), a wooden replica of the MCC seal, and a framed commencement photo with parting words from notable community members. The 3-D seal was created in the FabLab at the MCC-Business & Technology campus.
The send-off for James took place at the close of the June 22 Board of Trustees meeting. He retires June 30.
Three special guests spoke at the farewell event:
Former MCC Chancellor Jacqueline Snyder (2005-10) told James, “You’ve had a career of service from Day 1.” She welcomed him to the club of “the Chancellors Emeriti,” which she said involves no dues, no meetings, no fundraisers and no committees. All he has to do is get in his car, put the top down and head “into the woods,” Snyder said, one of several references throughout the evening to James’ Ozarks upbringing and sayings.
Carolyn Watley, a member of the MCC Foundation board of directors (and former chair), said she has had the pleasure of serving during Chancellor James’ entire tenure. The business community has viewed him as “a very active, engaged and visible leader” who worked hard to meet the training needs of area employers, she said. James also signed a marketing agreement with the Kansas City Royals immediately prior to two World Series appearances. (“Genius!” the chancellor replied.)
Zora Mulligan, Missouri commissioner of higher education, told those gathered that MCC is viewed around the state as a model of collaboration and innovation. She cited the College’s partnerships with other higher education institutions, K-12 districts and business and industry. James has also been a “real leader” of community colleges across Missouri, she said, and “extremely effective” in his relationships with state legislators. And he did “all of the above” with “an Ozarks flair,” she added.
The Board of Trustees resolution commended and congratulated the chancellor “for eight years of exemplary service to Metropolitan Community College and for his leadership, characterized by his commitment to the success of students and firm belief in the opportunities available at MCC to transform the lives of students.”
“Thank you,” James said after board Vice President Barbara Anne Washington read the resolution. “With every ‘whereas,’ my ears kept getting redder and redder.” [ Read the resolution here ]
James later said that he had the good fortune to work with “a whole lot of people who did a lot of good work.”
He added: “Many times, all I had was a crazy idea, but somehow the MCC employees were able to bring that idea to fruition, and together we saw great success that truly served students and our community.”
At the end of the day, he said, “it really was just about the mission.”
Vice Chancellor Kathrine Swanson, who emceed the farewell, noted that James always liked to say that “he kept the doors open and the lights on.” Although he didn’t always use “higher-ed speak,” she said, he demonstrated the same commitment to student success as those with years of higher education experience.
Commencement was his favorite night of the year. Swanson recalled walking out of Municipal Auditorium with James after her first MCC commencement and seeing his “look of pride” and “sense of purpose” as he pointed out the new grads celebrating in the street.
Swanson and her fellow MCC officers — the vice chancellors and campus presidents — presented the gift of a $1,200 check to the MCC Foundation, which will be used for a student scholarship this fall bearing Chancellor James’ name.
Watch Facebook Live video of the chancellor’s send-off