A Passion for Education
Jim Richey Envisions a New Era for BCC
It’s the first class of the morning on the Titusville campus of Brevard Community College and as students filter in they are greeted by an unexpected guest, college president, Dr. Jim Richey.
Richey wants to know everything about them – their interests, goals, fields of study – and the students quickly warm to his easy smile and outgoing personality. Then he delivers a straight-forward message: “Most jobs in today’s highly competitive economy require a college education so you should start planning your career now and work hard to stay focused to get those jobs,” he says. “If you do, it will make a major difference in your lives.”
The visit is one of many that Richey has made at BCC’s four campuses since taking the helm at the college in January with a vision to lead BCC into a “new era of opportunity” for students and the Space Coast.
That vision is centered on providing students with a high-quality, affordable education that will lead to good jobs upon graduation and providing local businesses with the workforce they need by using the college as an engine for Brevard’s economic growth. “It’s about doing everything possible for the students and helping the community as it recovers from the recession and the end of NASA’s Shuttle program,” says Richey. “That’s all I think about from morning until night. It’s a mission I intend to accomplish.”
Richey hasn’t wasted a moment turning his ideas into action. His achievements include:
- Setting BCC on the path to offer 4-year Bachelor’s degrees starting in August 2013, a historic first in the college’s 52-year history that will transform it into a state college and lead to a new college name.
- Crafting a fiscal year 2012-13 budget that one member of the college’s Board of Trustees called “spectacular” in not raising tuition, funding all academic programs and erasing the previous year’s deficit.
- Gaining a $26.7 million funding increase from the state Legislature to advance academics and build a new Institute of Public Safety that will anchor a new Viera campus.
- Forging strong partnerships with Brevard’s businesses that tailor future programs to their workforce needs and creating more student internships to get them valuable experience.
Top U.S. Rankings
The results are already enhancing BCC’s reputation as one of the best community colleges in the state and nation, a reputation Richey played a major role in developing in previous posts at the college. For example, BCC is ranked 19th nationally in awarding associate degrees among more than 1,200 community colleges and tops all other community colleges in Florida.
It also ranks 13th nationally in awarding associate degrees in science technologies, and 68th in awarding associate degrees to African-Americans. BCC has among the highest graduation rates in the 28-member Florida College System, ensuring that its students earn their degrees on time.
Additionally, 1,944 students graduated from the college this past May, the most ever. Nearly 1,400 were awarded associate degrees while the others earned program certificates.
“Those rankings are a testament to our dedicated faculty and staff and our commitment to guiding students from admission to commencement,” said Richey. “But we’re not going to stop there. We’re going to improve the college even more.”
Will to Succeed
The road to BCC’s presidency – and with it becoming one of the Space Coast’s newest community leaders – began for Richey in Alpena, Michigan. He was raised in a blue-collar family where his parents instilled the values of hard work and a will to succeed.
He worked his way through Michigan State University where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in accounting before graduating from law school at The Ohio State University. Those experiences left a deep impression on Richey about how public education can change lives for the better, a passion that drives him today.
“I know where many BCC students are coming from because I was the first one in my family to attend college and had to earn the money to pay for my education,” he explained. “I know the power of public education and how it can inspire a person to achieve things they didn’t think possible.”
Richey moved to Boston in 1988 and worked for a major accounting firm where he put together tax plans for international corporations. Warmer weather lured him to Florida one year later and he settled in Melbourne.
Richey had a highly successful law practice and was busy raising three children with his wife, Suzanne, when Gov. Charlie Crist named him to BCC’s Board of Trustees in 2007. He quickly impressed fellow trustees and then-college president, Dr. Jim Drake, with his acumen for finance and running an institution of higher learning.
Drake convinced Richey to join his staff in 2008 as general counsel, a position that led to executive vice president and general counsel, Drake’s second-in-command.
The Perfect Fit
It was a perfect fit – Richey had been interested in working at a college or university and Drake needed someone who could help guide the college through deep state budget cuts caused by the recession. Richey proved a skilled navigator, bringing BCC out of the recession leaner and more efficient and using the money saved through cost reductions to hire more full-time professors to bring the faculty to a record 253 positions.
The performance earned Richey the job of interim president when Drake retired in October 2011. He was named president in January 2012 when the Board of Trustees said he easily outdistanced four other candidates.
Richey’s days are long – 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. are typical – and he’s constantly on the move, collaborating with his executive team one moment, meeting with Brevard business officials or students the next.
Striving to Improve
Richey is always advancing four key issues as he looks to the future:
- Improving student performance through teaching and learning centers on each campus that focus on basic skills and providing better student advisement.
- Making certain that students are ready to meet the demands of the global economy through new 4-year and 2-year degrees and certificate programs geared to jobs in fast-growth fields.
- Advancing the students’ collegiate experience by surveying their opinions and implementing their ideas where possible.
- Strengthening BCC’s financial position by running lean and smart, developing a comprehensive enrollment plan and bolstering the BCC Foundation to increase the availability of scholarships.
Richey is confident that all this will happen as he works closely with faculty, staff and the community. “This is the greatest job in the world, and I’m fortunate to have the chance to do it,” he says. “It’s also a humbling responsibility.”
A responsibility Richey is using to the fullest in taking BCC into a new era of opportunity.
Brevard Community College: A National Leader
BCC is among the top community colleges in the state and nation, ranking:
- 19th in the U.S in awarding associate degrees among more than 1,200 community colleges and first among all community colleges in Florida
- 13th in the U.S. in awarding associate degrees in science technologies
- 68th in the U.S. in awarding associate degrees to African-American students
- 76th in the U.S. in awarding associate degrees to members of all minorities.
- Among the highest graduation rates in the Florida College System, ensuring students receive their degrees on time.
Source: Community College Week magazine, Florida College System
- More than 30,000 students take courses annually on one of BCC’s campuses in Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne, Palm Bay or online
- The college has served more than a half million students since 1960 and conferred about 87,500 degrees
- It offers nearly 100 degrees and programs and will start offering 4-year Bachelor’s degrees for the first time in August 2013
- BCC is a key player in economic development and is tailoring new academic programs to meet Brevard’s workforce needs
Source: Brevard Community College