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CONTACT: Bruce Smith
Public Information Officer
(310) 434-4209
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: November 17, 2004
Website

ROBERTSON TO LEAVE SMC FOR
PRESIDENCY OF EDUCATION COMMISSION OF THE STATES


(NOTE: The full text of Piedad Robertson’s resignation letter to the SMC Board of Trustees is at the end of the news release.)

Santa Monica College President Dr. Piedad F. Robertson announced today (Nov. 17) she is retiring from the college to accept the position of President of the Education Commission of the States, a national education policy organization. Her retirement becomes effective Jan. 31, 2005.

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Robertson said. “I am immensely proud of this outstanding institution’s many achievements and of the role I played in moving it forward. I will miss my colleagues and many good friends at the college. At the same time, I am excited about the opportunities at ECS to have an impact on educational policy – from Kindergarten through university – at a national level.”

“SMC is losing a great leader whose courage and vision have pushed this college to new heights,” said SMC Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Margaret Quiñones. “We wish Dr. Robertson well and we know that she will help shape national education policy as brilliantly as she shaped our college. Among her many legacies here – which have all been driven by her love for students – will be her success in getting greater equity in funding for community colleges. Piedad is the alma and córazon of SMC.”

Robertson will succeed Ted Sanders, who has served as ECS president since February 2000. The Denver-based Education Commission of the States – whose current chairman is Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee – is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization created in 1965 to improve public education by facilitating the exchange of information, ideas and experiences among state policy makers and education leaders.

“After a thorough and exhaustive search, and after considering dozens of very qualified, exceptional prospects, the committee concurred enthusiastically that Dr. Robertson brought a unique blend of experience at both the state and local levels in all phases of education from preschool to higher education,” Huckabee said.

The committee was also impressed, Huckabee said, that Robertson has worked with both political parties and is “more interested in getting the job done than in ideology.”

Robertson, who has served as president of the college for nearly a decade, has overseen dramatic changes at SMC and has established herself as a leader in innovative educational programs, facilities planning, workforce and economic development, fundraising, and community and government relations.

She said she will advise the SMC Board of Trustees to appoint SMC Executive Vice President of Business and Administration Tom Donner to serve as acting president until her replacement is selected.

She also said that she and her husband Bill Robertson will keep their home in Santa Monica and continue to be residents of the city.

Since taking over the presidency of Santa Monica College in 1995, Robertson has been a major catalyst for change on the campus and an influential force in Santa Monica and the entire state.

In 2003, she was appointed to The Arnold Schwarzenegger Transition Committee and was named special advisor to California Secretary of Education Richard Riordan.

“I consider Dr. Robertson to be both my friend and mentor,” Riordan said. “I am certain the students and community of Santa Monica City College will miss her greatly. However, she will now be able to serve our nation with her passion for education and compassion for all students.”

During her tenure, the college has grown significantly, and more than 160 new full-time, tenure-track faculty members have been hired, making up about 45 percent of the current full-time professor ranks.

Under her leadership, college district voters in March 2002 and this month approved two bond measures totaling $295 million that will transform SMC with new facilities and safety and modernization projects over the next decade. In addition, the college has purchased the 10-acre BAE Systems property at Santa Monica Airport, which will become a major satellite campus in 2005, helping to ease traffic and parking on the main campus.

She has won wide praise for creating the SMC Academy of Entertainment and Technology, which prepares students for jobs in the entertainment industry, particularly digital animation and new media. She has expanded workforce and economic development programs in such fields as nursing, education, and apparel.

Other major developments during her tenure include the $23 million Library Expansion & Modernization, the opening of a new $35 million, state-of-the-art Science Complex and the upcoming construction of the Madison Theatre Project, a 500-seat arts and education facility funded with public and private funds and supported by SMC alumnus Dustin Hoffman and other artists and leaders.

Known as a national education leader, Dr. Robertson is one of just seven members on the Gates Millennium Scholars Program Advisory Council, which oversees the $1 billion scholarship endowment created in 1999 by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. She is active with many local, state and national organizations, including the American Council on Education. Her many honors include the 2002 Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice, 1999 Woman of the Year Award from the Santa Monica YWCA, and 1997 Status of Women Award from the American Association of University Women.

Before coming to Santa Monica College, Dr. Robertson served four years as Massachusetts Secretary of Education, a post she was appointed to by Governor William F. Weld on Sept. 1, 1991. As Education Secretary, Dr. Robertson oversaw the drafting of one of the most comprehensive K-12 education reform laws ever offered in Massachusetts.

Prior to her appointment as Education Secretary, Dr. Robertson served as President of Bunker Hill Community College from 1988 to 1991. A native of Cuba, Dr. Robertson received her B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Miami and was awarded an Ed.D. from Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Robertson has held a number of administrative and faculty positions at Miami Dade Community College, Broward Community College and the University of Miami.

With a staff of 51 and an annual budget of $11 million to $13 million, ECS is the nation’s preeminent, nonpartisan source of information, ideas and leadership on education policy. It tracks trends, translates research, provides advice and creates opportunities for governors, legislators and other state leaders to learn from one another. ECS’s ultimate purpose is to help states improve their schools and colleges.

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Dear Board of Trustees,

I am honored to announce that I have accepted the position of the President of the Education Commission of the States. ECS is a national education policy organization established by governors, education legislators and leaders of each state. I will be stepping down as President/Superintendent of Santa Monica College and retire Jan. 31, 2005.

For almost 10 years, it has been my privilege to serve the students of this institution. They have never disappointed me. It has been my pleasure to work with a Board of Trustees that has always thought of this institution first and their own personal political views last. Above all, I have had an incredible team of managers. Thank you for making me look good. The college has a dedicated faculty; they challenge our students to do better. The classified staff has shown a commitment to this college in carrying out their responsibilities and pride in their work – whether it’s our police and parking security officers, secretarial staff, groundskeepers, custodians, information technology staff, lab technicians or the many other employees.

It is the people of SMC that have ensured that the college has a very special place in the community. It is the people of SMC who have ensured that the college and community are one.

I will miss my time with you, but I know that the work done thus far will not be stopped. The achievements have been many. At the state level, equalization brought us stability. At the campus level, construction activity has been fast and furious. Out of the rubble of the earthquake, we created an aggressive facilities plan – the Science Building, Library, Main Stage, new parking structure and the soon-to-be-constructed Liberal Arts Building. To manage growth and create new opportunities for our students, we opened the Academy of Entertainment & Technology, Bundy Campus and Emeritus College – and the soon-to-be-built Madison complex.

We lobbied Washington and Sacramento successfully for grant dollars. We passed two facilities bonds. We maintained our spot as No. 1 transfer institution to the University of California and USC. We built a thriving online education program. We have responded to the needs or the regional economy and workforce by training teachers, nurses, business people, computer specialists and more. We hired more than 160 new full-time, tenure-track faculty members who make up about 45 percent of the current full-time professor ranks.

We are the best. But it takes effort and commitment to maintain this momentum. I believe the SMC community can complete the task. My husband and I have our home and we will remain residents of Santa Monica. And my heart will always be at Santa Monica College.

Sincerely,
Piedad Robertson




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