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October 9, 2015


A new chapter for WCC

Dr. Belinda S. Miles was installed as the third president of Westchester Community College with befitting pomp and circumstance in a ceremony on the Valhalla campus Friday, Oct. 2.

She had some big shoes to fill following longtime president Joseph Hankin, but at her post since January, Miles is well on her way to making her mark as a leader of the institution that has been making a quality education possible for nearly 26,000 students each year. Since its founding in 1946, Westchester Community College has been preparing students for success in life and work with its 60 associate degree and certificate programs, noncredit programs, job training and English Language Institute. It has the largest division of continuing education in the State University of New York system and is SUNY’s only formally designated Hispanic Serving Institution.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, among the many dignitaries at the investiture, called WCC the best community college in the state.

H. Carl McCall, chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees, called Miles’s investiture an “exciting new chapter for Westchester Community College and the community.”

Since Miles’s arrival she has led the college to its status as an “Achieving the Dream” member institution focused on increased levels of student success. She also has overseen a successful Middle States accreditation visit and expanded K-12 partnerships to increase college readiness.

Her current community outreach includes being a member of the board of directors for the Business Council of Westchester and a member of the Education Committee of the Westchester County Association where she is working to align the college’s programs with existing jobs in the area.

At the installation ceremony, former colleagues and mentors spoke with great warmth, affection and appreciation for the woman they hold in high regard for her intellect, leadership and collaborative skills, and devotion to community education. A large delegation from her previous post at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio — where she served as provost and executive vice president of Access, Learning and Success — was there to support her.

Miles’s son Gordon, a 2014 Tuskegee graduate and a mechanical engineer in Ohio, spoke graciously of his mother who showed him “what growth and reinvention looked like.”

In her speech Miles said her leadership would usher in a “new era of service and success,” and of “transformation for the county’s future.”

She noted that this year WCC has a balanced budget, with no increase in tuition.

Miles said she will focus on redefining students’ success by doubling the graduation rate in five years, through community engagement, work force training, commitment to stewardship, and cultural competency.

The new president said she wanted to “use this inauguration to reaffirm our commitment to our mission to provide accessible, high quality and affordable education to meet needs of our diverse community.”

“Let us dare to dream of a nation that is stronger, and a stronger Westchester County, where every person has the knowledge and skills they need for family-sustaining jobs and an enriched life, and dare to do what is required to go beyond the ordinary, and reach new heights, that will transform our students, our institution and our society. This is our imperative, this is our calling and this is our time.”

Scarsdale resident Ruth Suzman, president of the Westchester Community College Foundation, and her husband Andrew have endowed a scholarship in Miles’s honor.

Westchester Community College and its foundation to raise scholarship money has long had a strong, dedicated base of supporters and partners within the Scarsdale community. The WCC Foundation’s annual Celebrity Salon series offers stimulating discussions with notable speakers in private homes. The foundation’s annual President’s Forum is a huge draw, with national figures discussing topics of global importance.

This year’s forum on Nov. 15 will play host to former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former United States Deputy Secretary of State Williams Burns. Moderator will be longtime foundation supporter Lester Crystal of Edgemont, the longtime executive producer of the “PBS NewsHour” and former president of MacNeil Lehrer Productions.

The college is a valuable resource to our students who need it — not everyone is ready or able to go to a private four-year institution. A handful of Scarsdale students enroll every year.

It is also a vital center for community engagement through its continuing education offerings, Native Plant Center, the first national affiliate of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, and its Smart Arts program of diverse cultural programs of theater, dance and music open to all at affordable prices.

We wish Dr. Miles the best of luck in her new role. A quality, affordable public education means access to better paying jobs and a franchised citizenry. What’s good for Westchester Community College is good for the county and good for us all.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of The Scarsdale Inquirer. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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