Over the past 15 years, Carroll Community College has seen the campus expand, enrollment grow and program offerings increase under the leadership of Dr. Faye Pappalardo.
This summer, Pappalardo will retire and a familiar face on campus will become the school's third president.
Dr. James Ball acknowledges he has big shoes to fill, but said he is excited at the opportunity.
"The prospect of taking on the helm here at this institution was really exciting," said Ball, currently vice president of academic and student affairs, and dean of the faculty at the school in Westminster.
Before coming to Carroll Community College, Ball had been vice president of student services at Howard Community College in Columbia. He has been in his current position at Carroll since 1999.
"I think we'll face challenges, in terms of fiscally moving ahead. The budget is tighter, and enrollment is decreasing a little bit because of demographics in the county," Ball said. "We'll have to be pretty frugal, careful and creative as we respond to the coming challenges."
But challenges aren't necessarily a bad thing, according to Ball.
"It's daunting, but it's piqued my curiosity and my desire to attack it," said the Ellicott City resident. "It's going to be fun to work with a great team to overcome these challenges."
According to Ball, being president means he will have to spend more time focusing on relationships outside the school.
"This role requires me and challenges me to be out in the community more, to develop relationships with the business community and friends of the college," Ball said. "It's a change in what I'm doing in some respects, it takes me away from the internal focus to an outside focus."
Ball, who aspired to be a musician as a child, said that it was during his college years that he decided to pursue a career in higher education.
As a college student studying music at the University of North Texas, Ball said he had the opportunity to work in student affairs helping fellow students with career development. He said he enjoyed the college environment and working with students so much that he decided to focus his career on it. He would go on to earn a degree in counseling from the University of North Texas and later a doctorate in education from Virginia Tech.
Although he didn't end up with a career in music, Ball said he still makes time to enjoy listening to music and even playing. Playing drums in his younger years caused Ball some hearing loss, so he said he spends more time playing guitar these days.
Married to his Atholton High School sweetheart, Marie, for 42 years, Ball recently moved to Westminster from Ellicott City. They have two daughters, Jessica Lauren Ball-Schleigh and Jillian Kathleeen Ball.
It may not have been what he set his sights on as a child, but Ball said the idea of serving as president of a school has crossed his mind.
"I've had in my mind that I'd like to be president of a college for a long time, but I enjoy my current position so much that I haven't really been looking for something else," Ball said. "I knew if I was going to take a presidency, it would have to be for an institution that is very special. This the best institution I've ever worked at."
Pappalardo had similar sentiments in looking back over her 27 years with Carroll Community College, 15 as president.
"No president is the end all. You can guide and support, you can lead, but you have to have great people to work with you … that's the kind of faculty and staff I've been fortunate to work with," Pappalardo said. "I wish every president could experience what I've experienced."
Integrity and collaboration were what kept her administrations strong for 15 years, according to Pappalardo.
"I've built the presidency on integrity," Pappalardo said. "I told the board [of trustees] when I was hired that whatever we did, we would do it with integrity. If we say we'll do something, then we better well do it."
Pappalardo said that she doesn't know exactly what she'll do when she retires at the end of June, but she expects she will spend time volunteering in the community.
She said it's hard to think about what comes next.
"This has really been a president's dream because of the faculty, staff and students, and I say that from the bottom of my heart," Pappalardo said. "It's been an honor for me to be the president here and to work with such wonderful people."
Ball said that he expects his transition to the presidency to be smooth because he has worked with Pappalardo and other leadership for so long.
According to Ball, the school will continue on the same trajectory, and he's excited at what's ahead.