MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - After a ride that began more than 40 years ago on a school bus, East Mississippi Community College President Dr. Rick Young has decided to make this his last stop - for a little while at least.
“I’m going to take a little time to decompress, do some reading, some research and reboot,” said Young, who has announced his retirement as president of EMCC’s Scooba and Golden Triangle campuses, effective June 30.
“I need to get away from it for a little bit and reflect. But I’ll never get away from it totally because I believe in it,” he said. “Maybe at some point I’ll come back in some capacity.”
Young’s foray in education began at age 17, while attending Mathiston High School in Webster County.
“I started out driving a school bus as a senior in high school,” he said.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1972, Young started a DECA program at Harrison Central High School in Gulfport. Because of the success of the program, he started a DECA program at EMCC while pursuing his master’s degree in technology education. After receiving his master’s degree in 1974, Young received a doctorate in educational leadership/higher education administration in 1993.
His career in education spans 42 years, 40 of those years at EMCC. Starting as an instructor, Young served at various levels and duties as an administrator and was CEO of EMCC’s Golden Triangle Campus in Mayhew from 1987-2003.
From Day One in his career, Young’s goal has been to help students better themselves through education and training opportunities.
“That’s always been my motivation,” he said. “And everything we’ve done at EMCC has been in that light - that we create opportunities for people every day and work to make a difference in the lives of individuals every day so that they can, through education and training, get jobs, keep jobs, get better jobs and have a higher quality of life.”
Young said he believes education is the key to success.
“The community, state and nation - everybody needs a good education. Education is the true leveling factor of all people. Once you have it, no one can take it away,” he said. “It’s just essential to move forward, and this world offers opportunities for those who have the initiative to be trained or to continue their education beyond an associate’s degree on to the university level.”
Among his proudest achievements during his tenure as president of EMCC are increased infrastructure on both campuses and recognition as one of the top Workforce Training programs in the nation. Also, the school’s athletics program has evolved.
“We’ve gone from being the team that everyone wanted to play for homecoming to having won three national championships in four years,” he said.
EMCC also has been instrumental in the development growth of the Golden Triangle area - something Young would also like to see in the Lauderdale County area.
“Lauderdale County is one of the best locations of the state for new economic development and it is just ready to go. I think our college, and working with Meridian Community College, ought to be a part of that growth,” he said.
Young’s innovative and aggressive pursuit of excellence at EMCC are qualities the college’s board of trustees is looking to find in the school’s next president.
“We want another Rick Young,” said Kathy Dyess, chairman of the board. “He’s initiated a lot of the college’s growth in the form of buildings and in the form of implementation of new programs. And he has greatly expanded our Workforce Training programs, which are desperately needed for people looking for jobs.”
The search for Young’s replacement began this week, with a deadline of March 27 to submit applications. Dyess said the board is looking for someone who is able to wear many hats while overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Scooba and Golden Triangle campuses.
“This person - and we believe they are out there - should be a master juggler and able to run multiple campuses. This means not only taking care of all the internal business, but also dealing with the Legislature, fundraising for the Foundation and recruiting students,” she said. “And there’s got to be some time for studying what’s on the horizon for higher education to make sure that EMCC keeps up with everything that is going on.”
Young credits his successful tenure as president to teamwork.
“I’ve worked with some of the very best people that anyone could ever wish to work with,” he said. “I’ve had the privilege to work with a faculty and staff, and board of trustees who have been very supportive. They bought into an issue and it’s been a team effort. I accomplished nothing myself. It’s all been working with people.”
With retirement less than six months away, Young said he is looking forward to more time with his wife, Melinda (also an educator, who retired after 38 years), and their son and daughter. Retirement also will allow more time for the couple to care for their mothers.
To his successor, Young offers the following:
“My predecessor, Dr. Tommy Davis, took it to a level. I’ve taken it to another level. And I expect the person coming in to take it even higher,” he said. “It’s primed and ready to be taken to new levels of success.”
Information from: The Meridian Star, https://www.meridianstar.com
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