May is a busy month in the community college world, marking the end of the academic year. It is a time devoted to celebrating not only our students as scholars, athletes and leaders, but also our faculty and staff. To that end, CCBC recently recognized eight retiring colleagues at an annual Emeritus Induction Ceremony where we honored the community college tradition of thanking those who spent their careers working to ensure students succeed. These professionals are among the many who have worked hard to help our college become an economic powerhouse, nationally recognized as one of the top 150 colleges in the country.

These proud eight spent their careers working collaboratively and collegially to make certain the success of others. We honor them for their years of service and for the effort they put in each day to foster a sense of empowerment, fulfillment, and enrichment in the lives of their students and colleagues. In 1957, the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) – then three separate colleges – began its mission to provide accessible, affordable, and high-quality education. Thousands of dedicated professionals just like these eight have since ensured that CCBC remains a preeminent place in the hearts and minds of our communities, enhancing the lives and the careers of those they serve.

Most of these long-term professionals also represent our “founding” years, when a group of long-haired faculty arrived at the college in their bell bottoms and granny dresses. As community colleges were founded across the country, many young, radical and progressive faculty were, without knowing it, creating a new form of higher education. They did it with the metaphoric equivalent of duct tape, bobby pins, and chewing gum. And at CCBC, when the Board of Trustees made the hard decision 26 years ago to create a One college out of the original Three, it was these emeritus colleagues – whom we honor now – who helped to bridge that transition. We were pretty great as three independent colleges, but now in our 67th year as One, we are unstoppable. Change of this magnitude simply does not happen without the resiliency, energy and creativity of a highly committed faculty and staff.

Any community college President knows the honor of bestowing Emeritus distinctions is special, typifying not just someone slogging through years of teaching or working in an office, but recognizing the achievements that add luster to those years. At CCBC, these professionals have helped – both in the classroom and outside of it – to educate literally hundreds of thousands of nurses, teachers, welders, engineers, technicians, accountants, dancers and social workers. Had they chosen other jobs, these professionals might well have become millionaires. Instead, they chose the community college world. And quite honestly, if they didn’t love their profession, they would not stay; the work is simply too hard.

I know I speak for all of us who work within the community college sector when I say that we believe that our strength lies in our people. Given the funding restrictions that many of us face, we will never lose sight of the fact that it is people, not buildings or athletic fields or budgets, that make a community college great. You need hands, hearts and minds to work the miracle community colleges do. Each of the professionals we celebrated have helped us to forge a new future based on the needs of the students sitting in our classrooms today.