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A Familiar Face : After National Search, Acting Chief Named Glendale College President

June 26, 1986|ROY H. CAMPBELL | Times Staff Writer

After spending $16,000 on a national search for a new president, Glendale Community College last week selected its own acting superintendent/president, John A. Davitt, to head the school for the next three years.

The selection of Davitt, 53, over 76 applicants was applauded by faculty and administrators.

"It was the most thorough presidential search that I've ever seen. We're quite pleased with the results," Jean Lecuyer, president of the Faculty Senate, told the board of trustees at its June 19 meeting.

At College Since 1968

Davitt, who has been an administrator at the college since 1968, will officially assume the post Tuesday. Davitt will be paid about $70,000 under the terms of his three-year contract. The exact terms of the contract will be decided by July 1.

When he joined the administration, the college had a student body of about 6,000 students. The 59-year-old institution now has about 10,000 students.

Faculty and administrators say Davitt's familiarity with the college and his close ties to them made him a favorite in the competition for president.

A San Francisco native who started his academic career in 1957 as a history instructor at an adult school, Davitt first served as dean of student personnel services. He stayed in that position for 12 years before moving up the administrative ladder to his post as vice president of instructional services before being named acting president.

Davitt attended the University of San Francisco, where he received a bachelor's degree in history in 1954 and a master's degree in secondary education in 1958. His got his doctorate degree in community college administration from USC in 1977.

"I didn't expect I would ever be here this long," he said. "But I've enjoyed Glendale, and I enjoy the college."

Davitt was appointed acting superintendent/president in August when H. Rex Craig died of lymphatic cancer. Craig was named president and college district superintendent in 1982 after the college broke away from the Glendale Unified School District.

Tenure Marked by Controversy

Craig's three-year tenure was marked by controversy and confrontations with the faculty and trustees.

"When Davitt stepped in, the campus was in the worst stage it's been in the the 10 years that I've been here. Morale was terrible," said Pete Witt, Glendale College Guild president.

Witt led the faculty, which includes about 350 part-time and 165 full-time teachers, in 16 months of often bitter contract negotiations that ended in December, 1984, when a contract was ratified.

Davitt, who was familiar with the faculty through his previous administratives posts, set out to improve relations. He met with faculty representatives, instituted an open-door policy and set up campus-wide committees that included faculty members. Previously, most committees excluded them, faculty members said.

"He has healed lots of previous wounds. He's done that through just using good common sense and communication skills," said Robert Holmes, president of the board of trustees.

Said Davitt: "The day of the authoritarian administrator is over."

School trustees said their only worry is that Davitt might be too close to the faculty.

'Hard-Nosed, Yet Fair'

"We hope that, when it comes to negotiating he will be hard-nosed, yet fair. . . . He does work for the board," Trustee Ted Tiffany said.

Drake Hawkins, a political science professor who was part of the screening committee that interviewed the candidates, said Davitt was asked what his critics would say about him.

"He said some of his critics would say he is too willing to say yes," Hawkins recalled.

College officials said that spending the money for a search was necessary, even though they wound up hiring from within.

"We wanted to know what was out there in the marketplace," Holmes said.

The college spent $10,000 with an executive search firm and the other $6,000 on travel and miscellaneous expenses.

The two other finalists were Phillip R. Ray, president of Dundalk Community College in Baltimore, and Raymond J. Needham, president of Guilford Technical Institute in Jamestown, N.C.

Davitt's immediate task is to assemble a management team, develop alternate sources of income in the face of decreasing state funding and to see the college through some projects that seem to be in jeopardy.

Developer's Plans

Those projects include the expected $1.5-million purchase of college-owned land by a developer who wishes to build a housing project in San Rafael Hills. The developer, Robert R. Hensler, recently said the project might fall through unless he can find a partner or another developer to take over the project.

The school was going to use the money to add 300 sorely needed parking spaces and to build tennis courts.

The college also lost state financing for a proposed $4-million classroom and faculty office building.

Faculty Senate President Lecuyer advised Davitt at the board meeting that hard work is ahead of him.

"The honeymoon is over," he said, as board members and faculty alike broke out in laughter.

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