Dr. Linda M. Thor, president of Rio Salado College in Arizona, will become chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District starting Feb. 16, the Board of Trustees has announced. A nationally recognized innovator in education, she will be the sixth permanent chancellor since the district’s founding in 1957.
“Passion for education is what we look for in any college leader,’’ said board President Betsy Bechtel. “Linda Thor’s driving passion is student success, and that is evident in every conversation with her. I am confident she will help us continue to advance our commitment to quality education for every student. We are very pleased to have her join us.”
Thor’s selection follows a national search for a successor to Martha Kanter, who resigned in June to become U.S. Under Secretary of Education, overseeing all of postsecondary education.
“I am honored and excited to be named the next chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the nation’s premier community college districts,’’ Thor said. “I have long admired the district for its commitment to student success, innovation and sustainability. I look forward to continuing the great legacy of Dr. Martha Kanter and the district’s outstanding faculty and staff. I thank the Board of Trustees for its confidence in me. As a native Californian, it will be gratifying to again serve the people of my home state.”
Thor has worked in large, multi-college community college districts for more than 30 years–first in the Los Angeles Community College District and now in the 10-college Maricopa Community College District, the largest in the nation.
“Linda has remarkable breadth and depth as a college leader,’’ said Foothill-De Anza Interim Chancellor Mike Brandy. “During her presidency, Rio Salado has earned the reputation as one of the most innovative colleges in the country. Linda has led the effort to develop programs and services that focus on meeting the needs of students, and has been extraordinarily successful in collaborating with a diverse group of partners to serve the educational needs of Maricopa County and beyond.”
Since Thor became president of Rio Salado in 1990, the “college without walls” has grown to serve more than 60,000 students a year. Its effective use of technology to provide instruction and support services has led to increased student success and made Rio Salado a national model for delivering quality online education.
Today, about half of Rio Salado’s students are distance learners. Others attend classes at educational centers located throughout a large geographic region. These centers increasingly involve collaborations or partnerships with community organizations, local governments or other colleges and universities to provide services and share costs. In addition, Rio Salado offers customized degrees and certificates for 40 major employers and dual enrollment programs with 54 high schools.
“Linda Thor has an extensive record of innovation and has presided over remarkable growth and development at Rio Salado,’’ said faculty member Dolores Davison, co-chair of the chancellor search committee and president of the Foothill College Academic Senate. “Her leadership in fund-raising, developing partnerships and collaborations, and technological innovation has made Rio Salado one of the most significant colleges in the Maricopa district.’’
Thor’s career path has given her a deep understanding of community colleges.
Her first position in higher education was director of public information in the School of Continuing Education at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, where she had recently earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She joined the nine-college Los Angeles Community College District in 1974, and in just over a decade advanced from public information officer to director of communications services; district director of high technology centers and services; and senior director of occupational and technical education.
In 1986, Thor was the youngest community college president in California when she assumed the leadership of West Los Angeles College in Culver City, where she led a successful turn-around effort for the then-struggling institution.
Thor holds a master of public administration degree from California State University–Los Angeles and received a doctor of education degree in community college administration from Pepperdine University in 1986. She has taught as an adjunct faculty member in graduate education programs at Pepperdine, UCLA and Northern Arizona University.
She serves on the board of EduCause, a non-profit association devoted to advancing higher education through use of technology, and is a member of the Leadership Circle of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.
Thor’s salary will be $260,000 a year, and her contract runs through June of 2012.
The chancellor’s salary was set after extensive research into community college executive salaries in comparably sized districts in the Bay Area and nationally. This figure puts the district in the median salary range among large districts.
Before her official starting date, Thor will work closely with the interim chancellor to ensure a smooth transition.
The national search for a chancellor began in June. A 16-member search committee included representatives of faculty, classified staff, students, administrators and community residents, and was assisted by a professional consultant and a search coordinator. Finalists visited Foothill-De Anza last month and took part in open forums. Many of the approximately 300 people who attended provided written comments to the Board of Trustees.
Foothill-De Anza Community College District serves more than 44,000 students a year at two colleges, Foothill College in Los Altos Hills and De Anza College in Cupertino.
Posted Dec. 7, 2009