Gordon May

Gordon F. May, who formerly served as president of two of Oakland Community College's campuses in Michigan, has been named the new president of Baltimore City Community College. (August 14, 2014)

Baltimore City Community College has hired the former head of a Michigan community college campus as its next president, officials announced Thursday, nearly two years after its last leader was forced out of her job.

Gordon F. May, who formerly served as president of two of Oakland Community College's campuses, is to start Sept. 2. He visited BCCC on Thursday to meet with the campus community.

"My commitment is long-term," he said. "I know when I start that I'm going to have to hit the ground running."

May, 64, will take over just a few months after BCCC was warned that its accreditation could be in jeopardy over concerns about its focus, goals and effectiveness. The school also faced a lengthy search process after former president Carolane Williams was terminated in December 2012 by the college's governing board, which was troubled by a 22 percent drop in enrollment.

May served as president of Oakland Community College's Highland Lakes campus from 2002 to 2013. He was appointed president of the community college's largest campus, Auburn Hills, in July 2013, but left the college six months later after accepting what he called an "extremely attractive" buyout that was offered to employees of the school who were not part of a collective bargaining unit.

Susan Williams, an administrator in Oakland Community College's human resources department, confirmed that he was a voluntary recipient of a buyout.

BCCC officials said in a statement that May would first tackle the task of creating a "solid five-year strategic plan" and meeting requirements set by the college's accrediting body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, to ensure that the accreditation warning is lifted.

"Student success and completion are the paramount goals," the statement said. "With that comes the need to garner community-wide support as well as the ability to generate enthusiasm for financial support and fundraising to advance the mission of the college and to serve the needs of students."

May said his first major initiative to address BCCC's troubles is to form partnerships in the Baltimore community. He plans to meet with area high schools, work development programs and local community groups to get a sense of what people are looking for in a program and improve enrollment figures.

"We are a community college, and we need to put an emphasis on the community," he said. "We're going to assess who we are."

BCCC enrolls about 18,000 students, many of whom come from Baltimore public schools and need remedial education, and are also juggling jobs or family responsibilities.

May spent most of his higher education career at Oakland Community College, which serves a county of 1.2 million people near Detroit.

He was in the trucking business as a manager when he began teaching a business course at OCC as an adjunct in 1986, and was appointed director of the college's Pontiac Center the following year, according to his biography. He served in a variety of leadership positions before his appointment to the Highland Lakes campus presidency.

BCCC officials said May led a five-year, $23 million upgrade to the college's facilities and started a committee of employees to garner input on decisions.

May was chosen from a pool of 53 applicants, BCCC officials said. Carolyn H. Anderson has been serving as interim president.

In June, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education found BCCC out of compliance with four out of 14 accreditation standards. The commission ordered the college to produce a report by March 2015 showing BCCC is providing accurate information about the college to the Middle States Commission and to the public, drafting a more complete strategic plan and strengthening the system it has in place to evaluate its own effectiveness. The college also must create budget projections further into the future.

May said the college's goal is to have the report complete by Dec. 19.

"It's not as drastic as it sounds," May said. "We're on track with where we need to be."

It is rare for the Middle States Commission to revoke a school's accreditation; most schools that face an accreditation action make the necessary reforms.

BCCC was also put on probation by the Middle States Commission in 2011 amid concerns about the school's ability to evaluate student learning, though its accreditation was reaffirmed a year later. BCCC was also warned in 2004 after it failed to submit a report on deadline, but its accreditation was reaffirmed after two months.

The accreditation problems in 2011 were among the issues cited by the college's governing board when Carolane Williams was terminated. Williams also faced criticism from faculty and staff, who gave her a vote of no confidence in 2010.

cwells@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cwellssun

Gordon F. May

Age: 64

Education: bachelor's degree in business management from Indiana University; master's degree in education, an educational specialist certificate, and a doctorate of philosophy in educational leadership and policy studies from Wayne State University.

Work highlights: worked in transportation management for 15 years; taught business management at the Oakland Community College (OCC) Auburn Hills campus as an adjunct beginning in 1986; named director of the then-new OCC Pontiac Center in 1987; appointed executive director of OCC's Royal Oak/Southfield campuses, 2000; appointed president of OCC's Highland Lakes campus, 2002; appointed president of OCC's Auburn Hills campus, 2013.

Personal: married to Pat, an educational counselor at OCC's Auburn Hills campus; they have two adult daughters.