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Foothill-De Anza Mounts National Search for Next Chancellor

Foothill-De Anza Community College District is mounting a national search for a new chancellor to lead one of the nation’s largest and most successful college districts at an exciting time in its history.

Dr. Linda M. Thor, a nationally respected college educator known for innovative approaches to serving students, announced that she will retire June 30, capping a successful 40-year career as a community college leader, 29 of them as a chief executive. 

In a retirement message to the campus community, Dr. Thor called it an honor and privilege to have led Foothill-De Anza for the past five years, citing the strong support she’s received from the Board of Trustees, administration, faculty and staff. She said she and her husband, who already retired, will return to the family’s home in Arizona, where their two children work as community college educators and where they lived for many years. 

She is leaving the district energized by several important initiatives and with new world-class facilities, modern technology and improved funding. Foothill-De Anza is leading a groundbreaking, statewide effort that will revolutionize distance education in California community colleges and building an education center in one of Silicon Valley’s premier technology parks. 

The budget picture has improved considerably since she became chancellor in 2010, at the peak of a record-setting state budget crisis. With California enjoying a strong economic recovery, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a 2015-16 budget for community colleges hailed as one of the best in many years. A multi-year effort to increase student success has resulted in strong support for community colleges from the governor and California Legislature, bringing new resources to the district’s longtime focus on student equity. Fundraising by the Foothill-De Anza Foundation also supports student equity programs. 

“We’ve been blessed by our chancellor’s leadership,’’ said Board of Trustees President Pearl Cheng. “She has kept us moving forward with great energy and innovation.” Although the board is disappointed to see her leave, she said, acceptance has settled in. 

Now the Board of Trustees is seeking another dynamic leader. Noting that hiring a chancellor is one their most important duties, President Cheng said trustees want to have a new chief executive in place by this summer. Mike Brandy, retired vice chancellor of business and a former interim chancellor with the district, is serving as search liaison, coordinating with a search firm that will begin recruiting candidates nationally in mid-February. 

A 15-member chancellor search committee includes representatives of the board, administration, faculty, classified staff, students and the community. The committee will screen applicants, conduct interviews and select finalists, who will be invited to visit the district and meet with the campus community. Trustees make the final decision on who will be the next chancellor. 

Foothill-De Anza has a long history of distinguished leadership. Thor is the sixth permanent chancellor since the district’s founding in 1957. She succeeded Dr. Martha Kanter, who left to become under secretary of education in the Obama administration.

Before joining Foothlll-De Anza, Thor served for nearly 20 years as president of Rio Salado College in Arizona’s Maricopa Community College District. She built the college into a distance-education powerhouse, serving working adults, high school students, corporations and governments by effectively using technology and offering customized certificates and degrees and accelerated learning programs. 

Before that she held increasingly responsible administrative positions in the Los Angeles Community College District, ending her tenure there as president of West Los Angeles College. 

Since returning to California as Foothill-De Anza’s chancellor, Thor has served by gubernatorial appointment as one of three state representatives on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and was one of 15 higher education leaders that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appointed to the Committee on Measures of Student Success. 

A board member of the League for Innovation in the Community College and the Community College Baccalaureate Association, she was a leading advocate for state legislation approved last year to create a pilot program allowing 15 California community colleges to offer applied baccalaureate degrees. Foothill is one of the colleges recommended to offer a bachelor’s degree, in dental hygiene. 

Thor currently serves on the Commission on Education Attainment and Innovation for the American Council on Education (ACE) and was one of two community college representatives who took part in ACE’s Presidential Innovation Lab. 

In California, she is a member of the Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Committee for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and serves locally on the boards of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network; the Bay Area Council Economic Institute; and the NOVA Workforce Board of Silicon Valley.  


Posted Jan. 20, 2015