Retiring Carroll Community College president Pappalardo built a legacy to last

Carroll Community College didn’t even have its independence when Dr. Faye Pappalardo joined the staff as dean of student services in 1988.

The college — a satellite location for Catonsville Community College, now the Community College of Baltimore County — was just a small facility with a few trailers located in the Robert Moton building on South Center Street in Westminster.

Pappalardo took the helm as president July 1, 1999, as the first female and longest serving president, founding partnerships in the county that propelled the college into the forefront of the Carroll business and health-care communities.

During her 15-year tenure, she raised millions of dollars in capital to not only support scholarships, new programming and curriculum, but infrastructure to support the growing student body and accredited and non-accredited courses.

But, even with all of her many accolades and the initiatives she has spearheaded at the college, as she prepares to retire at the end of this month, Pappalardo’s legacy will live on with her students — many of whom affectionately refer to her as “Dr. P.”

Pappalardo put her students first.

“She always wanted to make sure the students were taken care of,” Karlie Pickett, a 2013 graduate from Carroll Community College, said.

Per usual, at the end-of-the-year Student Government Organization banquet in 2013, Pappalardo stood up to thank the students for their hard work putting together activities over the school year, Pickett said.

“On all of the tables there were party favors and one of them was neon sunglasses with animal print,” Pickett said. “She has on a white dress, looking classy as all get out, and she puts on the glasses. She said, ‘You know you have the coolest president of all time right?’ and flashed us a pointer finger. Everyone erupted in applause.”

But these moments of genuine fun and care were not an unusual occurrence between the student population and their president.

On May 28, Pappalardo said goodbye to her last graduating class at the annual commencement ceremony at the college. And June 4, the Carroll County community got a chance to say their goodbyes during her retirement ceremony as she passes on the title of president.

Finding education through art

Pappalardo grew up in Philadelphia in a blue-collar family. She is an only child.

“I had a wonderful mother and father that were very concerned about me,” Pappalardo said. “You put all of the attention on that one child.”

Her parents were American-born, but both her maternal and paternal grandparents immigrated into the United States from Italy.

Pappalardo began her education in the Philadelphia public school system, but after six years, her parents pulled her out and enrolled her in private Catholic school, she said.

When Pappalardo got into her junior year at The John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School, she began to consider her career path, which she initially thought would marry her love for the arts and education, she said.

“I really wanted to be a dance teacher,” Pappalardo said. “I had started taking dance at an early age.”

Eventually, Pappalardo decided to pursue a degree and a career in just education, dropping dance.

“Education was always very important to me because I kind of thought early on that I would want to teach,” Pappalardo said. “I have gone to some wonderful schools and have learned so much from the schools I have gone to.”

She went on to study higher and adult education and French at some of the top universities around the globe.

A long career in education

Before joining Carroll Community College, Pappalardo was dean of student affairs at the Community College of Baltimore in Baltimore City and dean of the college at Bay College in Baltimore City.

Pappalardo initially joined Carroll Community College as dean of student services in 1988. She moved on to be vice president of teaching, learning and institutional planning; then executive vice president and then associate president.

During her career, Pappalardo has been involved in all aspects of higher education: academic affairs, student affairs, planning, research, finance, budgeting and resource development.

Building a college from the ground up

When Pappalardo took over the reins of Carroll Community College 15 years ago, her vision was clear: to continue growing the college into a viable option for educational opportunities for Carroll area residents.

“I am proud to be the president of an institution of higher education, which welcomes students of all ages to learn and grow in an atmosphere of integrity and in an institutional culture of caring and professionalism,” Pappalardo said.

Twenty years ago, Carroll Community College was approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission to operate as a community college in Maryland, making it the youngest in the state.

Pappalardo’s predecessor, the first president of the college, Joseph Shields, had led the institution to its independence, but Pappalardo sought accreditation, which meant specific, tailored programs and curriculum choices.

Under Pappalardo, the college received full accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in 1996.

When Pappalardo took the reins, the college offered limited degrees and limited programming. The college has grown from offering just 10 programs to more than 40 credit transfer and career programs.

“I am a strong believer that we should always put students first and that we fully support students’ goals and ambitions as they pursue their studies,” Pappalardo said.

In choosing the direction of the college, Pappalardo was very sensitive to the needs to the community-at-large, said David Bollinger, chair of the Board of Trustees at Carroll Community College.

Pappalardo had been approached by members of the nursing community in Carroll, specifically leaders at Carroll Hospital Center, about the need for a nursing program, Bollinger said.

“The college came and turned the idea from a dream into a reality,” Bollinger said. “[Pappalardo] went to the state and county leadership herself and helped to secure funding for the program.”

Stephanie Reid, chief nursing officer and vice president of quality at Carroll Hospital Center, said Pappalardo has always been a huge supporter of nursing education and an ally to the profession.

“She’s probably been the thriving supporter and person to drive that nursing be available in Carroll County at the Carroll Community College,” Reid said. “Before, people had to go to Frederick, Catonsville or Howard Community College to receive education in nursing.”

Pappalardo has been extremely collaborative with the hospital, Reid said, noting many Carroll Community College nursing students do their clinicals at the hospital and several nurses teach courses at the college.

“We’ve hired many of the students as nurses at the hospital,” Reid said. “[Pappalardo] has been a huge supporter of that alignment.”

Pappalardo not only helped to curate an alliance with the nursing community in the county, but also with the business community.

During her tenure, Pappalardo helped to maintain partnerships between the college and the business community, especially the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, which since 1990 has collaborated with the college on Leadership Carroll, teaching localized leadership training to Carroll’s burgeoning thought leaders.

“She understands the relationship between the business community and the education community and the general population at large,” said Michael Shank, treasurer of the Carroll Chamber of Commerce.

Shank said Pappalardo is able to build and keep these relationships and partnerships because she is very approachable and a great listener.

Over the years, Shank said Pappalardo has made the college campus accessible to the business community for meeting space and to hold other events.

As programs have evolved on the campus, so has the physical size of the institution.

Under Pappalardo, the college has opened five new buildings: the theater; the business training center; the P building, housing the fitness center and classrooms; the nursing and allied health building; and the K building housing the cafeteria, classrooms and staff offices.

Impacting students

Pappalardo’s open door policy, warm smile and upbeat attitude helped to re-assure Carroll Community College students that their president was on their side and acting as an advocate on their behalf.

According to Bollinger, every initiative Pappalardo started on campus was geared toward putting the students first.

“I think they love her,” Bollinger said. “She’s always been very accessible to the students. She genuinely cares about their well-being.”

Pappalardo also helped to ensure Carroll Community College students had educational enrichment beyond the classroom.

Brittany Hill, 20, a spring 2014 graduate of the college, was one of 14 students Pappalardo funded for an alternative spring break in 2012 allowing students to build homes for Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia.

“She paid for all of us students to go on that trip,” Hill said. “She always showed up to a lot of our functions at school. I could always take my questions or concerns to her.”

Hill said she sees Pappalardo as a personal inspiration.

“Because she’s a woman, it shows me there is just so much opportunity,” Hill said. “Women have come a long way in society and she’s living proof of that.”

During her tenure, Pappalardo has helped to curve any negative perceptions in the area about attending community colleges, said Craig A. Clagett, vice president for planning, marketing and assessment at Carroll Community College.

“Dr. Pappalardo has certainly increased the visibility of the college with her service on the chamber of commerce, the County Economic Development Commission, Carroll Hospice Board, et cetera,” Clagett said. “Her personal integrity, high expectations for students and emphasis on academic rigor certainly reinforce the fact that undergraduate education at Carroll is equal or superior to many universities.”

During her tenure, Pappalardo has helped place emphasis on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — including introducing a science in engineering degree, establishment of an honors program and fundraising, Clagett said.

One of Pappalardo’s chief functions as president of the college was helping with fundraising efforts, said Steve Wantz, executive director of the Carroll Community College Foundation.

“She was always proactive in making that vision clear and getting out into the community and having local businesses and philanthropists to commit resources to our college and out students,” Wantz said.

One of Pappalardo’s chief focuses was scholarships, to help ease the burden for tuition for students, Wantz said. He said Carroll has a large non-traditional student population.

During her tenure, Pappalardo also established a food locker, where students can get groceries off the shelves, and a cafeteria to provide a hot meal.

“We learned a lot of our students were struggling with priorities like putting gas in the car. We help meet the needs of students that were struggling just to get a nutritious meal,” Wantz said. “And that’s probably foreign to a lot of people in Carroll County to know that people are struggling.”