A Michigan state college president fluent in Spanish and with experience at a California community college was chosen Wednesday as the new chancellor of the San Diego Community College District by the board of trustees.
J. William Wenrich, who turned 51 Wednesday, will assume the district's post of chief executive officer in early September, overseeing San Diego City College, Mesa College and Miramar College as well as 10 major continuing education centers serving more than 95,000 full- and part-time students with 5,400 employees, including 3,300 faculty members.
Wenrich has headed Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., north of Grand Rapids, for four years. He was chancellor of the Rancho Santiago Community College District, which oversees Santa Ana Community College, from 1979 to 1984 and headed Canada College in Redwood City from 1975 to 1979.
Wenrich received his undergraduate degree in international relations and public affairs from Princeton University in 1959, and a doctorate in community adult education from the University of Michigan in 1968. He also served in the foreign service of the State Department, holding posts in Bolivia and the Dominican Republic, during which time he acquired Spanish fluency.
One of 3 Finalists
Wenrich was selected from among three finalists for the position being vacated by Garland Peed, who is retiring July 29 after 12 years as chancellor. Peed is given credit for putting the district, with its $140-million annual budget, on a sound financial basis at a time when many districts throughout the state have teetered near bankruptcy.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Wenrich indicated that, because of Peed's success with the administrative side of the district, Wenrich will focus much of his attention on new academic endeavors.
The district has been gearing up to do a better job academically of preparing students for transfer to San Diego State University and UC San Diego as well as providing initial opportunities for Latino and Indochinese students who increasingly flock to community colleges for basic skills and vocational training.
"I will focus on people relationships and opportunities to have people do new academic things and for me to respond effectively to some of their educational concerns," Wenrich said. "And, since California is the Ellis Island of this part of this century, we have to continue to respond to the major human resource (of immigrants). And I believe the district is doing a good job with that."
Wenrich said his daughter, who is a freshman at UCSD, took the required first-year UC writing composition course at Mesa College under an arrangement between UCSD and the community college system.
"And, while she is only one example, she was very positive about the instruction that she got, and I think it is marvelous if the community colleges can develop more links with other institutions," Wenrich said.