"It's overwhelming," France said following the announcement of her new role during a Town Hall Address held at the SportsPlex Thursday morning. "Certainly, I didn't think I'd be here 25 years ago. It's exciting and a little scary all at the same time, but I'm very, very thrilled." President Dr. John Strasser retires in August, and France's new role as President takes effect Sept. 1.
Hundreds of staff, students and community leaders packed the bleachers in the SportsPlex to hear to the announcement, and all were brought to their feet for a standing ovation as France took the podium.
In her speech, she recognized Dr. Strasser for the unprecedented growth in enrolment, program and facilities development during his tenure, noting that he has positioned St. Clair with a great foundation for her moving forward.
"My challenge, as the new President, will be to take the College to a higher level, further enhancing the student experience, pursuing academic excellence, ensuring our programs continue to offer state-of-the-art learning and further strengthening our stakeholder and community relationships," said France.
Her vision for the college is to be "a jewel in the community," and she said she hopes she can be supportive and engaging for St. Clair students as President.
"I want to set them up for success and I want to allow them opportunities to continue their education, be it at a community college or university," said France.
She stressed that collaboration and community partnerships are key and will remain a key focus to carry forward as President.
"We do not and should not function as a standalone institution. The multifaceted economic challenges faced by this region require remedies developed cooperatively by a number of public sector agencies working as partners," said France.
"Students today have realized that in their fields of study the best course of action for future employment is to combine a college education and a university education. It is a crucially important task for all post-secondary institutions to facilitate such joint education by ensuring seamless credit transfer and the creation of collaborative programming."
France, who is currently Senior Vice President of College Operations, said she is very excited to be the first female President of St. Clair College. "I hope that allows me to be a role model for people", says France.
Dr. Strasser has known France since he became President of the College in 2000 and said he knows without question that she'll do a great job in her new role.
"I think when you first meet Patti, you understand that she has a lot of qualities of leadership that are very apparent," said Strasser. "She works hard, she does the details well, she looks ahead, she's very collegial in terms of her contact with the world around her, and when you look at where she's come from as a support staff to where she is today, it's an incredible story. She is a great role model for many."
As for some words of wisdom as he passes the Presidential torch, Dr. Strasser said France doesn't need any. "She's a very, very detailed and thorough individual and I'm quite confident she won't have any problems as President," said Dr. Strasser. "She's ready to take on the challenge, she has all the right qualities and I feel really good about this. It was an excellent choice."
View the press release document. (PDF)