The Lawrence Ledger 12/01/2005

MCCC taps Wilfrid as acting president

By:Lea Kahn Staff Writer


Thomas Wilfrid, a former township mayor and former president of the school board, has added another leadership role to his resume.


Thomas Wilfrid is accustomed to taking on leadership positions. He has served as mayor of Lawrence Township and as president of the township school board, and he is currently the chairman of the township Planning Board.
   Now, Dr. Wilfrid has been named acting president of Mercer County Community College. The Mercer County Community College board of trustees appointed Dr. Wilfrid, 58, who is the vice president for academic and student affairs, to the post Nov. 17.
   This is not the first time that Dr. Wilfrid has led the community college on a temporary basis. He has filled in for Robert Rose, the college's president, twice when Dr. Rose was placed on involuntary leave in 2003 and again earlier this year. Dr. Rose has since been fired as college president last month.
   Dr. Wilfrid said that as acting president, his "top responsibility" is to help the institution move forward during some unusual and difficult circumstances, to affirm the important mission of the community college and to celebrate the many good people who work or teach at the two-year school.
   "This is a temporary assignment," Dr. Wilfrid said of his new position. "I want to continue to move the college forward in a positive direction. I am proud to have been associated with MCCC since 1969. I have had several different phases of my career here, and each one has been interesting professionally."
   The Cold Soil Road resident began his career as an instructor in physics and math at the county college, and then rose through the ranks to become vice president for academic and student affairs in 1997.
   Dr. Wilfrid earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the New York City-based Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1967. He earned a master's degree in physics from Princeton University in 1969 and he earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of Pennsylvania in1990.
   Dr. Wilfrid said he plans to apply for the top administrative post when the search for a new MCCC president is formally begun. The school's board of trustees will conduct the presidential search.
   "(Serving as the college president) is the ultimate opportunity for leadership in this arena where I have worked for 36 years," Dr. Wilfrid said. "I feel prepared for it. Each presidential search is a function of the timing, the trustee board and the candidates. There needs to be the right chemistry."
   In the meantime, Dr. Wilfrid said, there is much to be done. The college recently was re-accredited by the Middle States Association, which requires schools to meet certain standards in order to gain accreditation. MCCC went through a self-study process that generated many new ideas to strengthen the school and to equip it to serve the community for the next decade, he said.
   The school also is working on its strategic plan for 2006-08. Some major priorities likely will emerge as a result of the strategic planning process, he said. A strategic plan makes clear the major goals for the organization over the next three years, he said. It is similar to long-term planning, he added.
   Dr. Wilfrid said some decisions need to be made soon regarding the school's facilities. MCCC is in line for some state funding, and decisions must be made on how to spend the money, he said. For example, upgrades are needed to the heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) systems.
   The public should be reassured that MCCC is in good hands and that infrastructure issues will be addressed, he said. The college will be in good shape when the next president takes over, he added.
   Under the leadership of Dr. Rose, he said, the faculty has been strengthened and a systematic upgrading of offices and classrooms had been taken. The West Windsor campus opened its doors in 1972.
   Dr. Rose added 25 full-time faculty members in the past four years, bringing the total of full-time faculty to 138, Dr. Wilfrid said. There are about 300 part-time faculty members. About half of the courses are taught by part-time faculty, he said, adding that he would like more courses to be taught by full-time professors.
   "Fortunately, in this area, we have a large pool to draw on for part-time instructors," Dr. Wilfrid said. "The adjunct faculty gives the school access to a pool of talent that is not otherwise available. The adjunct faculty gives the school flexibility to meet changing needs and demands. They are a link to the realities of the workplace in a variety of fields."
   What is most important, however, is that MCCC gets through the next few months in a healthy condition with community support so that it is ready to focus on the challenges of the future, Dr. Wilfrid said.