Thursday, July 8, 2010
Former chancellor of DCCCD Bill Wenrich died
He inspired the creation of the Rising Star Program, a very successful scholarship foundation that's now used at colleges all over the world.
DALLAS J. William "Bill" Wenrich, who elevated the Dallas County Community College District to national recognition at the turn of the 21st century and helped create the internationally acclaimed Rising Star Scholarship Program, died on Tuesday, July 6, from pancreatic cancer. He was 73.
“As the fourth chancellor of the district, Bill built on the strong foundation of his predecessors,causing DCCCD to rise to heights never before experienced,” said current DCCCD Chancellor Wright Lassiter Jr., who served as president of El Centro College, one of DCCCD's seven colleges, during Wenrich’s tenure. “In all of his interactions, he was first and foremost a teacher. We learned so much from him during his tenure as chancellor. We could not have sought out a more talented servant leader as chancellor."
“Bill Wenrich's personal effect on community colleges will be felt for a very long time,” said Jerry Prater, chairman of the DCCCD board of trustees. “For me he was a leader, counselor, visionary and friend. His leadership of DCCCD was long, significant and incredibly fruitful. He will be missed on many levels -- for me, as a friend and mentor.”
During his tenure from 1990 to 2003 as CEO of the largest undergraduate institution of higher education in Texas, Wenrich led DCCCD to national prominence through instructional technology and innovative programs that have improved the quality of life in the community.
His profound commitment to making a college education accessible to students from all walks of life regardless of their circumstances inspired the creation of the highly successful Rising Star Program. Since its creation in 1999, the scholarship program has provided tuition and books to more than 10,000 students with economic need in Dallas County. Every year, Rising Star students outperform community college students locally and nationally in academic achievement and in degree completion.
“Though many of our supporters and leaders in the community receive the credit and accolades for Rising Star, it was really Bill's genius that made this unprecedented scholarship program successful,” said Betheny L. Reid, associate vice chancellor of development for DCCCD and president of the DCCCD Foundation. “Without Bill’s behind-the-scenes structuring and up-front, unabashed support, the scholarships for more than 10,000 students who have been served by Rising Star to date would not have been available.”
Today, the program is known worldwide. Through an international project supported by the Carnegie Corporation and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Rising Star serves as a model scholarship program in seven countries throughout Africa, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada and the rest of the United States. It also received the 2003 Texas Higher Education Star Award, presented by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to higher education institutions, organizations or individuals for exceptional contributions toward the goals of the state’s “Closing the Gaps” initiative.
Wenrich’s vision for a global community helped expand the services of DCCCD by way of technology. Through the support of the district’s telecommunications center, DCCCD has offered award-winning distance education courses and programs to more than 1,500 colleges throughout the country -- including Yale University -- and in more than 30 other countries.
A charismatic leader, Bill generated great respect for himself and for the district, in part through his leadership in innovative academic organizations. He served as president of the Texas Association of Community Colleges and board chair of the League for Innovation in the Community College, an education consortium comprising the top 20 community colleges nationwide. He also was a board member of the American Council on Education, the national coordinating board for higher education. The Association of Community College Trustees honored Bill in 1999 as Chief Executive Officer of the Year.
“Dr. Bill Wenrich was one of the finest mentors anyone could hope to have,” said Walter Bumphus, incoming president of the American Association of Community Colleges, who reported to Wenrich as president of DCCCD’s Brookhaven College from 1991 to 1997. Bumphus now serves as a professor in the Community College Leadership Program and chairman of the department of educational administration at the University of Texas at Austin.
“As a new college president, I was fortunate to have him as the chancellor for the system and knew that with each challenge I faced, I could count on his wise counsel and perceptive questioning,” Bumphus added. “Throughout my career, I have always known that he believed in me and could be counted on for advice and insight. America’s community colleges have lost an exceptional leader and a true champion of their students and their possibilities.”
Wenrich’s illustrious career included a wide range of experience in the field of education, in private industry and with the U.S. Foreign Service. Prior to joining DCCCD in 1990, he was: chancellor of San Diego Community College District (1988-90); president of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. (1984-88); president of Santa Ana College in California (1979-84); and president of Canada College in California (1975-79).
Fluent in Spanish, Wenrich worked as a foreign service officer in Bolivia and for the International Development Foundation in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s before beginning a career in higher education spanning more than 40 years. He earned both his doctoral degree in community adult education and master’s degree in university administration from the University of Michigan. He received his bachelor’s degree in international and public affairs from Princeton University.
Following his retirement, Wenrich continued his involvement with the Dallas college district as chancellor emeritus and as a member of the DCCCD Foundation's board of directors until his death. He also recently served on the board of directors of Bridgepoint Education (an independent, for-profit higher education company offering post-secondary education to adults) before its initial public offering in 2009, and then as a trustee at its affiliate at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa.
“I have been involved with the community college district for many years; however, it was Bill Wenrich who really drew me into the community college circle,” DCCCD Trustee Bob Ferguson said. “Someone once said, ‘The greatest gift you can give yourself is a friend.’ Bill was a great friend to me, and a great friend to the college district and this whole community. I believe we are where we are because he put us on high ground.”
A memorial will be held on Sunday, July 25, at 2 p.m. in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church, 408 Park Ave. in Dallas. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to: DCCCD Foundation, The Bill Wenrich Fund, Rising Star Program, 1601 South Lamar, Dallas, Texas 75215.
Wenrich is survived by his wife of 42 years, Martha; son, Thomas (Tigre) Wenrich, and wife, Pepa; daughter, Meg Mylan and husband, Scott; and four grandchildren, Andrea (14) and Guillermo Wenrich (11), and Anna (8) and Maggie Mylan (6). He is also survived by a brother, Thomas Wenrich, and wife, Carolyn, who have two children and four grandchildren.
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