New NPCC president steps in, ready for a few curveballs

By Wayne Bryan Published July 27, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

John Hogan has replaced Sally Carder as president of National Park Community College in Hot Springs following the latter’s retirement at the end of the fiscal year, June 30. Hogan said that he has found the area to be “the most welcoming place in the universe” and believes the size of NPCC’s enrollment suits him well because he wants to “be able to know the staff and faculty and most of the students.”

The recent journey from Columbus, Indiana, to Hot Springs was not the first trip to Arkansas for John Hogan and his family, but this one was different because this time, they were moving to stay.

“This must be the most welcoming place in the universe,” said Hogan, who is the new president of National Park Community College in Garland County. “I’ve been lots of places, but I have never received a warmer welcome than we have gotten here.”

Hogan, his wife, Dorelle, and their youngest son, Joshua, have come from Indiana, where Hogan was vice president for student affairs and placement with the Ivy Tech Community College System in Indianapolis. It is the largest community-college system in the nation, with more than 210,000 students enrolled at campuses in 31 cities.

Although Hogan was the only candidate for the school’s presidency who is not from Arkansas, he has connections to the state. His wife, Dorelle,

is a graduate of Harding University in Searcy, and one of the Hogans’ three sons, Adam, is a student at Harding.

“Dorelle’s father was a Kentucky farmer before he served in World War II, and when he got back, he wanted to go to college at a Church of Christ school, and her parents met at Harding,” Hogan said. “Four of their six children went there, and now two of our sons have gone there.”

The new president takes the place of Sally Carder, who retired at the end of the school year. Hogan said the college of just under 4,000 full-time students and more than 2,000 noncredit and continuing-education students is the best fit for him.

“I like that it is an independent community college, and I wanted to lead a college that was not huge,” Hogan said. “I wanted to be able to know the staff and faculty and most of the students.”

He also said the college is in a strong position to grow because of the work done by his predecessor.

“Sally laid the cornerstone, and I get to build on it,” Hogan said. “Growth is vital to a state institution of higher learning. We need to help increase the retention rate so people can finish their education or are fully prepared to step to a four-year-degree school.

The president said that kind of growth at NPCC will mean more people are ready for better-paying jobs and will bring a high quality of life to the students, to their families and to Arkansas.

While he wants the college’s students to complete their course work, and he would like to see more students enroll, Hogan is not sure the school will see an increase in the number of programs offered.

“When it comes to degree programs, I am not sure more is better,” he said. “Quality is the best predictor of enrollment, and we can look at new degree programs later.”

Few students are around the school this summer, but Hogan said he looks forward to speaking with all the students after the beginning of the fall semester. He wants to encourage them to stay in school.

“I would like to tell them to stick with it,” he said. “I hope we can help them find new incentives and inspiration to complete their studies. I want to tell them to be persistent and do the best you can do, no matter what. It will only maximize their opportunities.”

Asked about what challenges he faces at NPCC, he said he doesn’t see anything unusual, just the kinds of challenges being faced by all community colleges in America. He said both educators and business leaders across the country do need to turn their attention to rebuilding the workforce.

“The baby boomers are retiring, and that means all employers are losing people with a lot of knowledge, ability and experience,” Hogan said. “Most people in the nation don’t have a sense of urgency about this, but as an educator, I can see we need to train and develop a new generation of skilled people so businesses can find folks who can do that kind of work that needs to be done in the future.”

While this is his first job as a college president, for 11 years Hogan was chancellor for the Ivy Tech System’s college in Columbus, another school with around 4,000 students.

“As chancellor, about 75 cents of the buck stopped at my desk,” Hogan said. “I don’t think I will be surprised by any curveballs that might come my way.”

Hogan tends to use a few baseball metaphors when he talks. He said his boyhood dream was to play second base for the Cincinnati Reds, the Major League team just across the Ohio River from his hometown of Covington, Kentucky. Actually, being the second-sacker for the Reds remains a desire for the college president, although he says the likelihood of fulfilling that dream is diminishing.

However, if the Reds hold tryouts in Hot Springs, Hogan might be ready. Just as soon as he moved to town, even before the furniture arrived, Hogan had signed up to play in a local softball league for those age 50 and older.

While he has built a successful career as an academic, Hogan said, he was not really ready for college when he entered Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green as a freshman.

“I was not a mature undergrad,” Hogan said. “I worked at one of the residence halls, and I found I had some ability to organize.”

Earning a Bachelor of Science degree in health care administration, Hogan said he did not go into that field but was just trying to survive.

“I did the retail thing, and Dorelle and I got married, and I had matured enough to know I needed to go back to graduate school,” he said. “So in

the mid-1980s, we sold everything we had and moved back to Bowling Green.”

A mentoring professor there encouraged Hogan to get involved in academic administration, and he earned a Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in college-student personnel administration.

“That took me to Miami University (of Ohio) and my first academic position, and it got me interested in doing other things,” Hogan said. “I got involved in training using the new technologies and doing video-training presentations.”

Along the way, Hogan earned a Doctor

of Philosophy in higher education administration from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, and he joined the Ivy Tech Community College System in Indiana.

“That is where I fell in love with community colleges,” he said. “In a community-based school, it is easier to see the needle move, meaning you

can see how the college makes a difference with the students and the community.”

Having been at NPCC for just over 20 days, Hogan said he does not have an action plan set for the school’s future.

“I plan on having a meet-and-greet here and listening to everyone’s aspirations for NPCC,” he said, “not only from the board and the faculty, but from the Hot Springs community as well. At some logical time in the future, I will outline my vision, not only for the school but for its role in the community.”

A major goal for Hogan is to increase public awareness of what a two-year college can do. He said people know about vocational programs and about preparing students to move on to four-year schools, but less is known about what he called other training pathways.

“We want people to grasp all the elements of the college and how we can fill our own niche in the life of the community,” Hogan said.

As president of an institution that is vital to the community, Hogan said, he has to make decisions knowing they will not only affect himself, but the college and the community.

“If you think you are in control of things, you quickly learn you are not,” he said. “All you can do is stay in touch with your conscience and ask yourself, ‘Is this the right thing to do?’”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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