Dr. Thomas Isekenegbe Installation Speech

October 15, 2010



Thank you – Professor Gibbs


Sitting here  - listening to all of your inspiring remarks  

I cannot help but to think on this glorious day –

The best times are yet to come

for Cumberland County College

and our fine community.


Chairman Charles Thomas

and members of the Board of Trustees –

I do want to thank you all for the

trust you have placed in me

by selecting me as the sixth President

of Cumberland County College.

I am looking forward to working

with all of you as we move the college forward.




Director Louis Magazzu and

the Board of Chosen Freeholders

Our institution is what it is today

because of the county’s support

Thank you and I would like to point out

that many Freeholders are

Cumberland County College graduates.


Thanks to Dr. Richard Stepura

For speaking on behalf Governor Chris Christie

and Rochelle Hendricks Interim Executive Director

of the Commission on Education


I was certainly inspired by the remarks by

Nigerian Ambassador –

Her Excellency Dr. Uche Joy Ogwu


High Chief Dr. Kennedy Izuagbe

Thank you to both of you for

your presence here today.

We are honored.


Thanks to my colleagues for being here –

The Delegates of Institutions of Higher Learning


Chairperson Lilly Kejzman and the College Foundation members

Your fund-raising for scholarships and programs

promote student success.

I am looking forward to working with the Foundations

on the next big project like School Counts!


To my Senior officers –

Dr. Galbiati and Dr. Pitcher

Thank you for your support

Now - the hard work begins for all of us.


And I must sincerely thank the

members of the Inauguration Committee

who worked for months to make all this happen.


Before I continue – please indulge me to say thank you to  –

My children – Barbara – Theodora – Antoniette – and Oshioke

And of course

The person who is my partner – advisor – friend

And a person who loves

Cumberland County College as much as I do –

My beautiful wife – Patience Isekenegbe.

All of your support has made this day possible.


I am also grateful to my family and friends

who have traveled far and wide

to support me on this day.


We all have stories – or histories – if you will

Everyone here has their own unique story…

College’s have stories, too.

As many of you know,

Cumberland County College’s story

began on October 17, 1966.

Cumberland was the first community college

in New Jersey to open its own campus.

The initial students and employees dealt with a host of inconveniences.

But there was an air of excitement when

Cumberland’s incomplete campus opened

more than four decades ago.

A college – right in our neighborhood -

offering quality education at a reasonable cost.

About 350 students enrolled in the class of 1966.

During the intervening years, more than 17,000 students

have graduated from the college.

And this fall, more than 4,200 students are enrolled.


Our graduates have succeeded in a multitude of professions

In fact – you can see photos of some of our alumni

right outside this theatre on the

College’s Distinguished Alumni Wall of Fame.



Over the years several new buildings opened on our campus

Thanks to the generosity of individuals

who stepped forward to make a difference in their community…


The Frank Guaracini Jr. Fine and Performing Arts Center


The George Luciano Family Center for Public Service and Leadership


The Paul Navone Healthcare Education Center


The Shirlee and Bernard Brown University Center


Frank - Shirlee and Bernie - Paul


It is my privilege to thank you on behalf of the college and community.

Your generosity is changing lives and enhancing our culture


Miracles occur every day – in your buildings

Professors challenge students and help them succeed

And students accomplish more than they dreamed was possible

The quality education that occurs on our campus is

easy to take for granted because it occurs every day

but it is truly a miracle when lives are transformed

through the education that takes place in your buildings.


This is a college that truly changes lives

This college’s reputation for quality was built on the

backs of the past and present employees

and the accomplishments of our graduates


I am honored to name our past Presidents

who – working with the Board of Trustees and the entire college community

Led the way to where we are today –


Dr. William Sample – our founding President

Dr. John Humes

Dr. Philip Phelon

Dr. Roland Chapdelaine

Dr. Kenneth Ender


These Presidents did not do it alone –

They were blessed to work with

The finest faculty and staff any college could have.

To our faculty and staff –

Thank you for all that you do.


As I mentioned earlier – we all have a unique story

Here are a few highlights of my story

My father and mother

are still alive, but they couldn’t be here today

But my parents will certainly hear all the details of this grand event

When I was younger, my profile was similar to many students we serve.

I was the first in my family to attend college

My parents didn’t attend high school

But they placed a high value on education

My parents supported me during my undergraduate studies

at the University of Nigeria –

where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology.

My pursuit of higher education led me across the Atlantic Ocean

to Indiana State University –

where I met Dr. Chris Buethe and other professors

who Engaged – Inspired – and Transformed me               

while I was earning my post baccalaureate degrees.


To our students - I am living proof that

education is a powerful tool for upward mobility

When you graduate – you – too - will prove that

education is the gateway to success.


If you look on the cover of your programs,

You will see a logo with rising, growing stars

And the three words





This is the platform of my Presidency


When people are Engaged - they feel like they belong

And they are Inspired to learn great things

And consequently - they are Transformed by education.



This philosophy applies to students as well as the

businesses and agencies in our community


To implement this philosophy…


We will promote student success


Cumberland County College

like most community colleges,

has been driven primarily with the provision of access to students. 

Noah Brown, ACCT President & CEO, in one of his writings noted that “while access has historically been both a defining feature and imperative for community and technical college leaders, increasing emphasis is being placed on moving from an enrollment-driven policy to one that emphasizes student success and achievement.”


We at the College must heed this call, and during my Presidency,

focus will be on balancing access with success. 

“The Call to Action” signed by six National Community College Associations, calls for community colleges to increase student completion rates

by 50% over the next decade.

We are making the same commitment and more to help our students achieve whatever educational goals brought them to our College.


Toward this end, the College recently opened the Center for Academic & Student Success with its mandate to help our students navigate

around the barriers that affect retention and graduation.


I am pleased to announce that Cumberland County College recently received a $2 million Federal Title III grant, two weeks ago to help our College improve retention, persistence and graduation rates for our students.


Enhancing our student success means that we have to examine and change the way we do business in the classroom and our support offices.  This we must do in order to serve our students well.

We must transform ourselves

to be relevant and competitive    

in our ever-changing world.

As we focus on student success –

Our decisions will be data-driven

and we will stress accountability.

We will promote Service Learning and Community Engagement


The community has been very supportive to

Cumberland County College over the years.

It is time for us to give back to this wonderful community

And find new ways of addressing community needs.

I am committed to adding a Service Learning component

to all of our academic programs. 

Service learning is the combination of academic instruction

in the classroom with community service. 

I am committed to seeing service learning take place

across all disciplines and degree programs

and to a college-wide effort to inspire others to service. 

I believe good leaders inspire us,

but great leaders inspire us to service.


Our faculty is the key to this initiative.

I will work with our faculty and staff

to determine the best way service learning

will become a hallmark of Cumberland County College.


Our college will also join the Campus Compact –

A National coalition of over 1,000 colleges and university presidents

committed to promoting civic engagement and community-based learning.


It is my goal to have CCC recognized as one of the forces

for good in this county. 



We will promote Leadership- on campus and in the community:


We are fortunate to have a building on campus

where leadership and service are exalted-

the George Luciano Family Center

for Public Service and Leadership. 

Our Center is ideally suited

to tackle the continuing challenge of crafting informed,

engaged civic leaders by strengthening our existing programs

And expanding into new areas of leadership development.


Since the inception of the Center,

more than 1,200 county residents and

more than 100 nonprofit  organizations

have participated in leadership and capacity

building training through  Leadership Cumberland County,

the Neighborhood Leadership Institute

and Youth Leadership Programs.

We have worked hard to be a resource for

new and emerging leaders across the county.


But we can do more.


In the future - we will expand and strengthen

these programs while establishing programs in

Leadership development. 

The proposed programs will integrate

our community work with our Academic programs.

I propose that we begin to teach the foundations

of leadership by offering students new courses

and a new certificate program in Leadership Studies.

Students will learn the foundations

of leadership and apply those

principles to their chosen discipline so they can

 assume positions of leadership

in the workplace and within our communities. 


We will also develop a course that teaches the skills

needed for Community Engagement and civic responsibility –

so our students will be informed and engaged citizens that embrace

the challenge of public service and community problem solving.


In this period of unprecedented economic challenge

the college has a crucial role to play in developing leadership skills

in all those we serve.



Finally – we must promote Economic Development


We can not simply focus on advancing our institution –

we do not exist in a vaccum. 

As I have said,

We are part and parcel of the community

of Cumberland County. 

We have the responsibility to work in

partnership to provide a better quality of life.


Whether through our efforts to educate and train

The workforce, 

our continuing efforts to align high school

curriculum to career ladders,

or through our ability to collaborate with

public and private partners,

Cumberland County College will continue

To be a catalyst for growth

to benefit the entire region—

growth that leads to jobs with family-sustaining wages.


President Obama has projected

that jobs requiring at least an associate’s degree will

grow twice as fast as those with no college experience.


Cumberland County College is prepared to play an active role

in Cumberland County’s 2010-2020 “The Future is Now” plan.

Along with our County partners, we will be thinking creatively about a sustainable future and how Cumberland County can tap into the global economy.


With customized training we will help existing industries adapt to

continuously evolving technology and help chart a new course

in exciting fields such as renewable energy and engineering. 

We are committed to retooling our own facilities and

encouraging life-long learning for our staff and faculty

so that we may quickly adapt to the

ever-changing needs of the county’s economic base.

We will meet the expectations of our businesses and

industries as we graduate students into the workforce

with the knowledge base and technical skills

demanded by today’s businesses.


We will extend our reach, our resources, and our support

to each of the communities and our county government

to prioritize the goal of strengthening opportunities

for retaining our young people who hold

the keys to our future.






I know that today’s event is called the President’s Installation,

but it may well be called the Cumberland County College Installation,

because this is a celebration of the college’s rich 44-year history

and a commitment to our next chapter of providing

quality higher education for our community.


It is certainly humbling to be the focal point of this celebration

by the college and community.

But please be assured –

I want collaborations to be the signature of my Presidency.

I will work with our Board, faculty, staff

and our friends and supporters in the community.



We will  Engage – Inspire – and – Transform

students, businesses and agencies

so they can prosper and lead the way

for our community’s growth in the 21st Century.





The hard work is ahead of us.

There will be many challenges. 

But I know that there will be victories along the way.

But today

With all of you

Who have taken the time to be here

It’s time to sing




Thank you.