Baytown City Manager Rick Davis, right, shares a moment with Dr. Dennis Brown at the President’s Circle Luncheon Thursday afternoon. 

Giving his final update as Lee College’s president at the 11th Annual President’s Circle luncheon, Dr. Dennis Brown delivered a lot of good news about what has happened within the past year.  

“I didn’t make these things happen,” Brown said. “We have a lot of great folks that do a lot of great work and help a lot of our students to be successful. That is how it happened.”

Brown, who will retire in January 2020, shared news about the awards the college received during the past year. He talked about how the American Association of College Trustees had selected Lee College as the sole winner of the National Advancing Diversity Award in 2018.

“Then we decided in October, what else could we achieve? So, we applied for the ACCT award for Equity,” Brown said. “We were a finalist for that National Equity Award, but we won the Western Region Award for Equity, which is another great tribute to this institution, our employees and the support in this 

community and those here today. We cannot do those kinds of things and be competitive unless we have you to make it happen.”

Brown said they nominated Paul Allen, an instructor with the college’s Huntsville inmate program, for the American Association of Community College’s Faculty Innovation Award in April, which he received. 

“Think about going behind prison walls with no Internet, no study room, and access to materials is limited,” Brown said. “How do you teach inmates and give them access to what we take for granted and what the inmates call the free world? It is difficult, but people like Paul found a way to make it happen.”

The college was also one of eight selected out of the 1,200 community colleges in the country to be named a Community College of Distinction by the Achieving the Dream Organization. In addition, Brown said Leslie Gallagher, executive assistant to the president, was recently awarded the 2019 Western Regional Professional Board Staff Member Award by ACCT. In October, Gallagher will travel to San Francisco to compete for the national award. 

Brown said the presidential search for his replacement is underway.

“The plan is at this point in September, the final candidates for the job will be brought to the college,” he said. “At that point, who they are will become public, and they will be on campus. There will be forums to give you an opportunity to ask questions and be put through a rigorous process. In October, the board will select a finalist for the president’s position. then, the candidate will come and be a part of the college in December.”

During the 86th Texas Legislative session, which ended in May, Brown said community colleges did “OK.” 

“I like to say we did very well, but we did OK,” he said. “We are funded from the state based on our students. (Community colleges in Texas all increased) by $75 million in new dollars across the state. Lee College, over the biennium, saw our state support increase by $1 million. That million we will receive is a combination of increased contact hour finding and our student success points.”

Don Coffey, a former Lee College Regent, shared the story about when Brown was hired at the college. 

“I remember going into the meeting that night and we had gone over all of the resumes,” Coffey said. “He had many years as the No. 2 man at El Paso Community College. I dropped the resume on the table and said either we hire this man or we start over. So, everyone looked at me and said they agree. We hired him and I feel like he has been one of the best presidents Lee College has ever had.” 

Every year, new members are inducted into the President’s Circle and their names are announced at the luncheon. Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation, announced the new member’s names. Among the new members are Melissa and Hannah Christenson. Their father, Tim, was also inducted. They were recognized for assistance with the college’s Performing Arts Center.  

Other new members include Baytown City Manager Rick Davis, the college’s attorney John Hopkins, Jennifer Leist from Phillips 66, Lee College Alliance Director Clarissa Martinez, and Huntsville Center Dean Donna Zuniga.  

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