New NCCC president is several steps ahead

Congratulations to Joseph Keegan, who was named Wednesday as the next president of North Country Community College. It is a rare and special opportunity for NCCC to have a president who is both an alum and an employee.

As a student, Keegan studied general liberal arts at NCCC en route to a four-year degree in anthropology at SUNY Potsdam and a master’s at SUNY Albany. He never got a doctorate, which may actually be an advantage since it puts him closer to the education level of the people he works with and serves. He has been where NCCC’s students are, and he must be able to understand them in ways other administrators cannot.

As an employee of NCCC, he started as an adjunct instructor and eventually became vice president of academic affairs. Adjuncts tend to be low-paid, so he’s been there, too, and can appreciate that important part of the college’s world. He is well known to the faculty and staff, and ought to be in a good position of trust that will serve everyone well in union negotiations, hiring and planning the college’s future.

He is also a longtime member of the community in and around Saranac Lake, which is a wonderful asset. He knows people, knows whom to call for particular questions, knows how people have reacted to the college’s past initiatives, and ought to have a pretty realistic outlook about what may or may not work in the future. Also, we expect he has a strong sense of why the college is an essential part of the community.

None of this is meant to reflect badly on the other two candidates for the job, but rather to celebrate the strengths the winning candidate brings to the job. We don’t know him very well, personally, but loads of local people think highly of him. Evidence for that could be found in the dam-bursting flood of congratulations people wrote on the Enterprise Facebook post about his hiring Wednesday.

So he’s off to a good start, even before he starts his new job next month. That’s a relief, because it’s hard enough to tackle the big tasks the college faces — such as increasing enrollment, adding a trade school and other programs, overhauling its Saranac Lake campus and figuring out what to do with its swimming pool — without also having to work on gaining everyone’s trust. He’s several steps ahead in that regard, which is a reason to be optimistic about this important local college’s future.


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