Rio Grande to begin presidential search

March 7, 2014

RIO GRANDE, Ohio – Dr. Barbara Gellman-Danley, president of the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College, has been appointed president of the Higher Learning Commission.

The Higher Learning Commission is a nonprofit regional accrediting agency that accredits more than 1,000 colleges and universities with a home base in one of 19 states stretching from West Virginia to Arizona.

Dr. Gellman-Danley will remain as president of Rio Grande through June, and assume her presidency with the HLC on July 7.

“The Higher Learning Commission is among the most respected entities within higher education. To have one of our own appointed president is an accomplishment for the entire Rio Grande family to celebrate,” said Jack Finch, chair of the University of Rio Grande Board of Trustees. “Barbara Gellman-Danley has had a great and positive impact as the president here at Rio Grande. It’s difficult to summarize her numerous accomplishments since unifying this institution under one president in 2009, but she absolutely will leave a lasting legacy of innovation and positive change.”

Finch, along with Rio Grande Community College Board of Trustees Chair Shawn Saunders, has formed a joint Presidential Search Commission tasked with providing oversight and direction for the national search and transition.

The Presidential Search Commission also includes URG Board Vice-Chair Alice Dachowski, URG Board immediate past Chair Gerald E. Roach Jr, and RGCC Board Vice-Chair Larry Kidd.

The commission is scheduled to meet next on March 12 to review proposals from presidential search firms and discuss forming a Presidential Search Committee that will include representation from all Rio Grande stakeholders – faculty, staff, students and members of the local community.

“This is an exciting time for Rio Grande. Barbara Gellman-Danley’s appointment to the Higher Learning Commission presidency puts Rio Grande on the national stage and reflects positively on what we are accomplishing,” said Saunders, chair of the RGCC Board. “We are extremely proud of all she has accomplished at Rio Grande, and so happy to see that recognized nationally.

“Rio Grande’s next president will certainly have some big shoes to fill. But I believe this appointment to the Higher Learning Commission showcases the immense opportunity and potential for continued growth that exists here at Rio Grande.”

Dr. Gellman-Danley joined the Rio Grande family as president in 2009. Since that time she has: reengineered the governance of both institutions under one president with a shared executive staff and board committees; developed a 10-year Decade of Dreams strategic plan with comprehensive master plan; $3.5-million capital funds renovation of Wood Hall; development of the Reardon One Stop facility to serve all student enrollment and billing needs; worked with representative Ryan Smith to get legislation to reinstate dorm residency beginning the fall of 2014; maintained a total focus on the learner through Provost initiatives to increase the focus on research among faculty and students at the university; and pending revitalization of Rhodes Hall into a student success and career center using capital funds.

Prior to Rio Grande, Dr. Gellman-Danley served as vice chancellor at the Ohio Board of Regents, president of Antioch University McGregor, vice president at Monroe Community College and vice chancellor at the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Gary Wheeler, chair of the HLC’s Board of Trustees, said Dr. Gellman-Danley was selected after a highly competitive search.

“The board selected Barbara Gellman-Danley because of her effective leadership, focus on public policy and advocacy, and strong commitment to academic excellence and transparency as president of an institution of higher learning,” Wheeler said. “We believe that she is uniquely positioned to lead the commission as higher education confronts the many challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Dr. Gellman-Danley served as a peer reviewer for the HLC for 10 years. Her experience also includes numerous national and state boards including the Association of Governing Boards Council of Presidents, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning Board, Chair of the American Council on Education Commission on Education Attainment and Innovation, the ETS National Community College Advisory Council, the Executive Committee of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, and the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.

“I have been affiliated with Rio Grande for over 6 years, including four and a half as president, and previously as consultant. I’ve grown to deeply admire and care for the people of southeastern Ohio and the endless commitment of both boards to our learners,” Dr. Gellman-Danley said. “Sometimes an opportunity comes along that is simply too difficult to ignore, but my love for Rio, its employees and students is not limited to geographic presence. I feel very emotional about leaving Rio, and hope to continue to be available for any guidance from a distance. Gallia, Jackson, Vinton and Meigs are great supporters of the community college and university; I am confident Rio will continue to offer programs and opportunities to strengthen the economic engine forged through higher education.”