Horace Chase, Jackson State Community College’s vice president of financial and administrative affairs for 17 years, has been appointed interim president of the college until the conclusion of a search for a successor to retiring President Bruce Blanding.
Dr. Blanding, who has led the campus since February 2004, announced in April his plans to retire, effective January 31, 2017. He asked Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor David Gregory to move up his retirement date and to consider releasing him from his duties for the remainder of his tenure. Gregory approved the request, citing his nearly 13 years of distinguished service to the college, the TBR system and the state.
Following discussions with JSCC leaders, Gregory asked Chase to serve as interim president until a new president is selected. The search for a new president began Thursday with a public forum and the inaugural meeting of a presidential search advisory committee, both of which occurred on the Jackson campus.
Chase began his career at Jackson State in March 1990 as an internal auditor and nine years later, assumed the role of vice president of financial and administrative affairs. Before coming to JSCC, he was as an auditor at Brandon, Smith and Jones, a certified public accounting firm in Memphis, and a senior accountant at LeMoyne-Owen College.
He received a bachelor’s degree in professional accounting from Mississippi State University and a master’s in business administration from the University of Tennessee at Martin. He received his CPA licensure from the State of Tennessee.
Chase is a past chair of the Community Colleges Council of the National Association of College and University Business Officers and has served for 12 years as an accreditation evaluator for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
He has one daughter and two grandchildren.
“We are fortunate to have such a strong team in place at Jackson State and to have Vice President Chase ready and willing to lead. I’m confident that the faculty and staff will help him through a seamless transition for our students, whose education is always our mission and focus,” the chancellor said today (Friday).
“Our focus is going to continue to be on student success and I’ll be relying on the support of our quality faculty and staff, along with the leadership of the other vice presidents, to help assure we provide for the educational needs of our students,” Chase said.
He also said he will not be a candidate for the college’s presidency.
The chancellor also thanked President Blanding for his years of service, which includes prior work at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and other community colleges before his arrival at Jackson State in 2004. “I am grateful to President Blanding for his past leadership at several institutions that are part of the Tennessee Board of Regents system and most particularly his role at Jackson State over the last decade,” Gregory said.
The 16-member search advisory committee — composed of three members of the Tennessee Board of Regents and campus and community representatives — will review potentially dozens of applicants and nominees, then select three to five finalists who will be invited to the campus for further interviews and meetings with faculty, staff, students and the public.
After those meetings, the chancellor will recommend a candidate to the full board for its consideration. The board expects to appoint a new president by the end of the year.
At the meeting on campus Thursday afternoon, the search committee’s chair, Regent Barbara Prescott, told her colleagues on the committee that “presidential searches are one of the most important responsibilities of the Board of Regents and the chancellor. You all know the importance of leadership,” she said.
The committee reviewed its timeline, the procedures for selecting finalists and the criteria for a new president approved by the Board of Regents in June. In addition to the published criteria, Gregory said the committee is looking for “a leader who can inspire people, who has vision, who has a great passion not only for education but for the success of students.”
The committee will work with the executive search firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates to help identify a broad range of highly qualified candidates.
Dr. Betty Asher, a partner in the firm, told the committee that JSCC is ready for its next phase of excellence in serving students. “I don’t know of many community colleges across the country who are as poised for the future as you are. You are in a very elite group of community colleges working very hard on student success initiatives,” she said.
Earlier Thursday, Asher led a public forum on the campus in which community members expressed their views on what values and qualities the next president should possess.