Baltimore City Community College president Gordon F. May talks about developments at the school. (Lloyd Fox Baltimore Sun video)

Baltimore City Community College President and CEO Gordon F. May plans to retire next summer after four years leading the institution, the college announced Friday.

"It has been the opportunity of my lifetime to serve the citizens of Baltimore City and our state in restoring the promise of community college to every student we serve," May said in a statement.

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May joined the college in September 2014 while it was under pressure to fix long-standing issues or face the loss of its accreditation. Under his watch, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education lifted the college off "warning status" in 2015 and reaffirmed the college's accreditation.

"I really appreciate Dr. May's service to the students and faculty of BCCC and to the people of Baltimore," Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement.

Jason Perkins-Cohen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and a new member of the board of trustees of the college, also praised May and said the board was “grateful for all that he has done for the college’s students and other stakeholders it serves including employers.”

“Dr. May has been a real force of stability for the college at a really critical time,” Perkins said, noting that May “laid the groundwork for stronger programming.”

Baltimore's community college under pressure to fix longstanding problems

When students walk onto the Baltimore City Community College campus for the first day of classes Monday, they will find an institution under fierce pressure to change.

The General Assembly passed legislation this year aimed at reforming the community college after BCCC spent years struggling to attract and retain students. It dismantled the board of trustees and brought in former Baltimore mayor and University of Baltimore president Kurt Schmoke to chair the restructured board.

The legislation laid out specific benchmarks — such as raising graduation rates and revising the college's strategic plan — BCCC must accomplish by December 2018, or face loss of funding.

The bill also established certain criteria for the college's next president. May's retirement next year gives the board additional time and flexibility to hire a new president, the college said in a statement.

BCCC is rolling out new programs this year. It now offers Open Educational Resources, which allows students to take textbook-free classes. The college has also partnered with Achieving the Dream, a network of more than 220 colleges that works to improve student outcomes.

Sandra L. Kurtinitis, president of the Community College of Baltimore County, said she is very fond of May and holds him in high regard for "weathering challenging times." She described him as a good bridge for the college from the time he arrived when it faced the loss of accreditation to the stable institution it is today.

"He carefully made his way through. I give him a lot of credit for that," Kurtinitis said. "I would describe him as one of the most dignified and gentlemanly of colleagues," she said. Giving the college nearly a year to do a search for the new president is a gift for the city, she said.

Mayor Pugh recently announced a proposal to offer graduates of Baltimore public high schools free tuition at BCCC starting with the Class of 2018.

"Over the last three years, I have been humbled by the opportunity extended to me by this community to make such a difference in people's lives," May said, "and I believe we have made a difference as our constituents have looked to us for their 'new beginning.' "

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