Brevard County, FL – This morning, Dr. James A. Drake, president of Brevard Community College, announced that he will retire from the presidency.
Drake, 67, delivered a formal letter of resignation to Alan H. Landman, chair of the BCC Board of Trustees. He said he timed his retirement announcement to coincide with the date he accepted the BCC presidency. “Today is the fifth anniversary of my first day at the helm of the College,” Drake said. “My first full day was Tuesday, October 3, 2006.”
In a detailed interview with Landman, Drake cited other factors in his decision to retire from the presidency. “Two other reasons are my age, and the fact that this is my fortieth year as a full-time college administrator and professor. In re-assessing my earlier thought of taking a sabbatical, I felt this best met my needs. It’s the right time to retire.”
After serving as BCC’s interim chief executive for six months, Drake became the college’s fifth president on March 1, 2007. Drake said he had never considered being a college president when he was approached by the leadership of the BCC governing board in September 2006.
“The reason I was named interim president was that my predecessor, Dr. Thomas E. Gamble, had been diagnosed several months earlier with a terminal illness.” Drake, who headed the University of Central Florida joint campuses with BCC at the time, had worked closely with Gamble, whom he described as “a fine leader and a courageous man.” Gamble died Nov. 1, 2006.
Drake leaves the College in what he called “rock-solid” condition despite recession-caused funding cuts from the state Legislature that have impacted higher education in Florida.
Currently, the college:
- Serves almost 30,000 students annually (unduplicated)
- Employs nearly 1,500 people
- Has a nearly $100 million operating and capital budget, including Direct Support Organizations and other affiliated entities.
“Our solidity is a reflection of the unity of our board of trustees, faculty, staff, and student government representatives,” said Drake. “Any and all credit for the college’s achievements during the past five years belongs to them, not to me.”
During Drake’s administration, BCC has become one of the top community colleges in the U.S. and Florida. Nationally, BCC ranks 28th among 1,700 community colleges in the number of two-year associate of arts degrees awarded in 2010, according to a Community College Week analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education. It ranks second in Florida in graduation rates at 47.6 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Drake cited several major achievements during his tenure, including substantially reducing the college’s administrative overhead and reinvesting the savings in academic advising and other student support services. He created a record-number of new full-time faculty positions – there were 196 full-time professors when he became president and there are 253 now.
And he repaired damaged relations with the United Faculty of Florida, the faculty union, which had been at an impasse with the previous administration. Furthermore, Drake oversaw record-breaking enrollment nearly every year during the past four years.
Drake showed his personal commitment to students by donating $101,000 of his salary to establish student scholarships for textbooks. It was an unprecedented step by a BCC chief executive in the 50 year history of the college.
The one-time donation provided critical financial aid to 244 students during the 2009 spring term, and one additional student during the spring 2011 term. The scholarship is currently being made available to eligible students during the 2011-12 academic year.
The process to replace Drake will begin at the BCC Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 17 when members are expected to take the first steps to form a search committee for a new president. The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the King Center for the Performing Arts on BCC’s Melbourne campus.
Drake’s contract stipulates that he assist the next president with transitional advice during a 120-day period that begins Oct. 3.