I am saddened to report that TC alumnus Joseph N. Hankin, one of the nation’s truly great community college leaders, passed away this week at age 78.
Dr. Hankin, who led Westchester Community College from 1971 through 2014, was the longest-serving community college president in the country. On his watch, WCC grew its enrollment from 4,000 students to more than 13,000, with another 5,000 students scattered across a number of satellite locations. Now the largest institution of higher education in Westchester County, WCC offers more than 50 training programs for different careers.
At TC, where he received his education doctorate in Administration of Higher Education in 1967 (and which a decade later awarded him the Distinguished Alumni medal), Dr. Hankin was among a number of graduates who went on to become community college leaders. He later taught a class on community colleges here at the College, and served on the advisory board of our Community College Research Center (CCRC) for the Center’s first decade. In fact, soon after we started CCRC, I sat in on Dr. Hankin’s community college class, and I continue to benefit from many of the insights and lessons I learned there. He was always generous, insightful, and supportive.
A great deal has changed in the world of community colleges since Dr. Hankin first took office – and even in the five years since he left it. But I agree wholeheartedly with his philosophy, which he expressed some years ago in a piece on leadership in TC’s Annual Report: “You have to get out to where the people are,” Dr. Hankin said. “You have to be cross-eyed: one eye on the stars, another on the minutiae on your desk.”
The field has lost a dedicated and wise professional, to whom it owes much. He will be missed.