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Innovative Educator Steps Down : Education: Richard Moore, iconoclastic president of Santa Monica College, resigns to take over at a community college in Las Vegas.

August 28, 1994|JOHN BUZBEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Santa Monica College President Richard Moore, who had foreign language tapes played in campus bathrooms, brought continuing education to thousands of senior citizens and expanded student diversity, announced Thursday that he's leaving his post after two decades for a similar position in Las Vegas.

Moore, who college officials said was the longest-serving community college chief in the state, made the announcement at an emotional meeting with faculty and college officials, surprising many despite rumors that he had been considering the job of president of the Community College of Southern Nevada.

Moore, 61, said he was attracted to the challenge of helping the college keep pace with the expansion of Las Vegas, one of the nation's fastest-growing cities.

"They want to build and get ready for the next 50 years," he said. "They need to get the community college caught up with the town."

His departure shocked many at the Santa Monica campus.

"I choked up when he said he was leaving," said Manahil Jad, student government president. "He's done a lot of good for the campus. He believes in people and he believes in their visions."

Alfred Quinn, chairman of the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, said he was initially surprised by Moore's decision to take the Nevada post.

"He was sitting on the top of the world with all this success," Quinn said. "He likes challenges. He likes to start innovative things."

During Moore's tenure, Santa Monica College grew from 14,000 to more than 21,000 students. It now sends more students to the University of California system than any other institute of higher education.

Shortly after taking the job in 1974, Moore launched Emeritus College, which offers 3,000 senior citizens an education in everything from Yiddish poetry to Chinese exercise.

He has also steadfastly guarded the budget of public radio station KCRW, fought for a bond issue in 1992 that provided $23 million for capital improvements and guided the recovery from the Jan. 17 earthquake, which caused about $75 million to $100 million in damage.

He will be remembered for less dramatic achievements as well. He had Spanish, French and Japanese language tapes piped into the bathrooms, provided faculty members 30 minutes of free reading time a week and gave a restless high school graduating class a three-word commencement speech: "Feelings. Adventures. Ideas."

"This is a bright, creative leader," said Ilona Katz, a college trustee. "I'm very surprised we were able to keep him as long as we did."

"He had a feel for what the community would want in their community college," said Marilyn Hall, director of Emeritus College. "That was one of his priorities: Don't just start something, but maintain it. He's done that for 20 years."

He has also kept a strong commitment to increasing diversity in the student body and faculty, which represents the ethnic makeup of Los Angeles, she said.

Moore decided to apply for the Las Vegas job after a friend mentioned the opening. Moore will oversee three campuses and several satellite classrooms with 25,000 students. His predecessor retired this summer.

Katz said she expects Moore will be replaced through a nationwide search that will take six to nine months, although the trustees have yet to approve a recruiting plan. Moore has recommended that they appoint chief business officer Tom Donner as interim president.

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