GLENWOOD SPRINGS - In his first several weeks as interim president of Colorado Mountain College, Dr. Charles "Chick" Dassance has hit the ground at a gallop.
He is learning quickly about the college, its students and employees, and the communities it serves. He's been meeting with as many people as he can, reading reports and budgets and documents of every stripe.
"The role of an interim president, in general, is to prepare the college for its next CEO," Dassance said. "My role is not to restructure the college but to bring stability to college operations. This does not imply that we should not address issues that need to be addressed, nor that we should stop innovating and improving.
"I have been impressed with the many fine programs and services at CMC," said Dassance. "I know this transition period can be unsettling, but I am also confident that the most important work we do - helping students learn - continues to be the main focus of our faculty and staff."
Dassance will oversee the 11-location community college in north-central Colorado while CMC's elected board of trustees seeks and appoints a permanent president.
The position became available in December upon the resignation of Dr. Stan Jensen. The college's trustees will conduct a nationwide search for a long-term candidate. Details of how the search will be conducted will be determined over the next several months.
"The board of trustees clearly wants CMC to be a college that will be a source of pride for the citizens of our service area, and I look forward to working with the board on finding the right leader for the college's future," Dassance said.
As a former president of two community colleges, Dassance was hired in 1996 as president of what was then known as Central Florida Community College in Ocala, Fla. Over the next 15 years, he led the college's transformation into prominence and record enrollment.
Among the initiatives he oversaw there was the introduction of bachelor's degrees, something Colorado Mountain College introduced last year. After Dassance retired in 2011 from the renamed College of Central Florida, he was honored with the title of president emeritus.
Dassance was known in Ocala for saving the Appleton Museum of Art, which was brought under the auspices of the college, as well as for his community involvement and commitment to providing workforce opportunities.
"He put the community in community college," said Frank Rasbury, a former College of Central Florida trustee, in an article about Dassance on Ocala.com.
Before CMC's board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Dassance, trustee Pat Chlouber of Lake County said, "Dr. Dassance seems to understand and can fulfill the mission we have in mind for the next few months, and we're confident he'll work well with our communities and add strength to our staff."