Interim president Richard Hopper takes reins at GCC

  • Richard Hopper

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2021 1:59:30 PM

GREENFIELD — Two months after the announcement that Yves Salomon-Fernández would be resigning as president of Greenfield Community College, an interim president has assumed her role.

Richard Hopper, who received a unanimous vote of support at a board of directors meeting, officially began with the college on Monday.

“I am very excited to begin my new role with Greenfield Community College,” Hopper said in a statement following the board of directors’ vote. “I have tremendous respect for GCC and all it has accomplished and I look forward to continuing the good work.”

Hopper, the former president of Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, Maine, said he has family in the Pioneer Valley, making him a “frequent visitor” to the area.

In June, Salomon-Fernández announced her plans to step down in a letter to the community, where she wrote that she was ready for a less public role. She had accepted a remote position as senior vice president at Southern New Hampshire University.

“It was a move to step back a little bit,” she said during an interview in June. “I bring 150% to everything I do, and (GCC president) is a very public role. We’ve gone through a pandemic, social change and racial issues. … All of those things made me reflect on what kind of balance I want in my life.”

GCC board of directors Chair Robert Cohn said Hopper was selected out of three potential candidates.

“We had three candidates that were all exceptional,” he said. “Any of those candidates would have been great, and I’m thrilled Hopper took the position.”

Cohn said under the time constraints the college was working with, Hopper’s availability to start in mid-August was significant for the purpose of ensuring a smooth transition between presidents. He noted that Hopper was supposed to go to the Ukraine on a Fulbright Fellowship, but given the vaccination status of the country, opted to decline the opportunity.

“He’s well-rounded,” Cohn said. “He’s smart, and I can’t tell you how excited I am, and our board.”

Cohn said through his experience at Kennebec Valley Community College, Hopper proved to be “persistent, smart and exactly what we’re looking for.”

“He spent eight and a half years as president of Kennebec,” Cohn recalled. “At the end, he got a $2.5 million grant … the federal government gave out $17 million. He was told to not even apply, but he did and he got it.”

Prior to Kennebec Valley Community College, Hopper held various senior positions as an education specialist at the World Bank and as a Fulbright scholar. Additionally, he sits on the Commission on Economic and Workforce Development for the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington D.C.

In a message to the community, Hopper spoke to GCC’s emphasis on inclusion.

“As a newcomer,” he said, “I have been made very welcome here, and I want everyone affiliated with the college to feel that same sense of openness, warmth and belonging every day.”

As in-person learning “safely expands” this academic year, Hopper said the college will continue to make sure the education provided by GCC is effective, efficient and accessible.

Cohn said an official presidential search will begin in the near future, with the expectation that a permanent president will be named next summer. He expects a national search will be conducted, which will include a search committee of 11 to 13 people with members from throughout the college community.

“We like to involve everybody,” he said. “Everybody has a great deal of perspective.”

He said the college plans to take “one thing at a time.”

“We’ll do what we need to do,” Cohn said. “That college is going to continue to be the shining star in Franklin County for a long time to come — it always has been. … No one person is bigger than the organization.”

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