'Renaissance Man': Dr. John Roueche, the Visionary Director of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, Is Preparing in August to Close the Chapter on a Distinguished Career That Spans More Than 40 Years

By Smith, Susan | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, May 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

'Renaissance Man': Dr. John Roueche, the Visionary Director of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, Is Preparing in August to Close the Chapter on a Distinguished Career That Spans More Than 40 Years


Smith, Susan, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


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A photo gallery of noteworthy graduates stretches across two walls in the office of the Community College Leadership Program, or CCLP, at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. John Roueche, the director of CCLP, points to the photos with pride, listing the accomplishments of his former students. Scanning the portraits, one of his greatest accomplishments also is visible: recruiting a record number of minorities and women into the program.

After 42 years leading the nation's most highly regarded and successful training ground for community college presidents, Roueche, 73, is retiring this summer. Roueche is set apart from his peers not just for his prolific writing, groundbreaking research and exceptional teaching on community college leadership practices, but also for his uncompromising commitment to diversity and inclusion. CCLP has graduated more women and minority college presidents than any program of its kind in the country--beginning with the recruitment of Paul Meacham, its first Black student. A photo of Meacham, distinguished Regents professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and former president of Clark County Community College, appears in the gallery of notable graduates.

"[CCLP] was a program for White males, and out of his own deep value system he started changing that," says Dr. Terry O'Banion, former president of the League for Innovation in the Community College and Roueche's longtime friend and colleague.

Of the more than 500 graduates of the program during his tenure, 60 percent are women and students of color.

Roueche created this diverse program through "recognizing excellence and demographic reality," says Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at UT and the W.K. Kellogg professor in community college leadership. He knew that leadership had to be representative of the population.

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His achievements extend beyond CCLP and to the community college field in general, one of the fastest-growing sectors in higher education. Dr. Manuel Justiz, dean of the college of education at UT, says the "collective vision [of the program's graduates] has shaped the community college movement in this country."

Vincent adds, "We hear President Obama talking about the importance of community colleges. We would not have that infrastructure but for Roueche's leadership and vision."

Many of his colleagues, friends and former students say his professional achievements are topped only by his humanity and humility. Dr. Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, says, "What people don't know is that he is even a better man."

At 31, Roueche became a full professor and the youngest person to lead a national community college graduate program. He has traveled the world promoting community colleges. He has written 38 books, many with his wife, Suanne, also a formidable scholar at the university. He has received dozens of prestigious awards. Yet his professional bio begins: "A community college graduate ...."

During an interview in his office at UT, Roueche, who holds the Sid W. Richardson regents chair in community college leadership, sits in a brown and beige leather chair adorned with images of longhorns, the mascot of the university he loves. The chair is a gift from Bumphus and Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, president of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland. Both are former students who are as close to Roueche as siblings. A natural storyteller, he radiates openness and warmth as he recalls his journey from community college student in Statesville, N.C., to leader in the community college field--providing a glimpse into the values and ideas that have shaped his storied career.

A helping hand

Roueche received his A.A. from Mitchell Community College in Statesville in 1958. …

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