Howard Community College President Kathleen Hetherington will retire Oct. 1, the college announced Thursday.
Hetherington, who started working at the college in 1999, has served as president since 2007.
“Howard Community College is an incredibly special institution that I have been proud to serve for 22 years,” Hetherington said in a news release.
Howard Community College spokesperson Elizabeth Homan said the college’s board of trustees will work with a consultant to conduct a nationwide search for its next president.
“The board of trustees has been honored to support Dr. Kate Hetherington in serving the faculty, staff and students of Howard Community College,” Felí Solá-Carter, chair of the Howard Community College board of trustees, said in the release. “During the global pandemic, Dr. Hetherington helped the college navigate the uncharted waters of COVID-19 and plan for the ‘new normal’ in higher education.”
Hetherington said October is the right time to retire for multiple reasons. With the coronavirus numbers improving and more people being vaccinated, the community college looks on track to be in a more normal spot in the fall than it was during much of the pandemic.
Hetherington also said the college finishing its accreditation visit with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education — an important step toward retaining its status as an accredited institution — and the college recently celebrating its 50th anniversary played roles in her retiring now, too.
Mostly, though, she feels comfortable leaving because “the college is in great shape,” she said in an interview Thursday.
“I originally was thinking of leaving June 30, but with COVID, I wanted to get the fall semester up and running,” she said. “That’s why I’m staying on through Oct. 1 to make sure we get things in place for the next president. ... The timing is right. I feel like the college is in a very good place. I’m very confident that we’re ready to move forward under new leadership.”
Under Hetherington, Howard Community College has grown to serve more than 26,000 credit and noncredit students. Part of that increase is in the dual-enrollment program with the Howard County Public School System, which has expanded under Hetherington’s leadership. The college has also been named a “Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education and ModernThink for 12 straight years and was recognized as a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award winner in 2019.
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“The college has achieved a lot, primarily because of the commitment of the dedicated faculty and staff and the trustees at the college,” Hetherington said.
Hetherington has worked at community colleges her whole career. Before being named Howard’s president, she was executive vice president, capital campaign manager and vice president of students services at the community college for eight years.
Before being hired at Howard Community College, she worked at the Community College of Philadelphia, her alma mater, as dean of student systems and as an adjunct professor at Delaware Community College in Pennsylvania. Hetherington is Howard Community College’s first president who received a degree from a community college herself.
“It gave me a great understanding of what our students go through, especially first-generation college students,” Hetherington said of being a community college alumna. “I grew up in a large family. Paying for college was a challenge, so I understand when students are facing financial hurdles. My whole career has been dedicated to paying back the excellent faculty who taught me when I was at the Community College of Philadelphia.”
“That work will continue through the next legislative session,” Hetherington said. “I’m one of three commissioners selected for that, so that will keep me busy. But I will be able to spend more time with my family, which I am looking forward to.”