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MWCC Trustees Appoint Committee to Find President Asquino’s Successor

Richard Cella
Attorney Richard A. Cella, center, will chair the Presidential Search Committee to find a successor to President Asquino, right. Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega, left, will also serve on the committee.

The search for Mount Wachusett Community College’s third president in 53 years has officially begun.

MWCC’s Board of Trustees has named a Presidential Search Committee to find the successor to Daniel M. Asquino, who announced last month that he will retire in January 2017 after 30 years at the helm of the college and 47 years of service in Massachusetts public higher education.

“Under Dr. Asquino’s astute leadership, Mount Wachusett Community College has become known for excellence in academics, workforce training, K-12 and community partnerships, student support services, civic engagement and sustainability,” said Trustee Richard A. Cella, who will chair the search committee.

“I am confident we’ll attract outstanding candidates for this position, given MWCC’s reputation as an innovative institution with an extraordinarily strong endowment for a community college,” said Mr. Cella, an attorney in Leominster and Gardner.

“Mount Wachusett Community College has grown exponentially over the past three decades under President Asquino’s bold leadership,” said Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega, who will also serve on the committee.

The college serves nearly 12,000 credit and noncredit students at its main campus in Gardner, satellite campuses in Devens, Leominster and Fitchburg, and online, said Sbrega, president and CEO of GFA Federal Credit Union. “Our programs now include more than 70 academic degree and certificate options, tailored to our specific workforce needs.”

The nationwide search, conducted under the guidance of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, will be an open and transparent process that will involve the entire college community, Ms. Sbrega said. The committee plans to hire an executive search firm to coordinate the process, and anticipates it will present a recommendation to the Board of Higher Education for approval by late fall.

Dr. Asquino, currently the longest serving president among Massachusetts’ public institutions of higher education, was appointed in August, 1987. He succeeded the college’s first president, Arthur F. Haley, who was appointed when MWCC was established in 1963.

“Over the next 10 months, we will work together to address all of the challenges and opportunities for Mount Wachusett Community College, with a goal of a seamless transition to work at least one month with the new president,” Dr. Asquino said.

In addition to Attorney Cella and Ms. Sbrega, other committee members include: Trustees Scott Howard, executive vice president of business development of Bemis Associates, Suzanne Farias, general manager of the Double Tree by Hilton in Leominster, and Joana Dos Santos executive director of the United Neighbors of Fitchburg/Cleghorn Neighborhood Center; business and community leader Jim Garrison, former board chair and current member of the MWCC Foundation; MWCC Foundation board Chair Ray Martino and foundation member Chuck Bowles; Deputy Commissioner for Academic Affairs and Student Success Patricia Marshall, representing the state Board of Higher Education; Gardner Superintendent of Schools Denise Clemons; Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella; business Professor Elmer Eubanks; Financial Aid Director Kelly Morrissey; Shaunti Phillips, senior outreach specialist; Cheryl Oliveri, staff assistant in the Planning, Development & Institutional Research department; Carla Morrissey, library assistant and circulation supervisor;  Student Government Association President Cathy Teague; and ex-officio member Diane Ruksnaitis, vice president of human resources & payroll and affirmative action officer.

“There really are no words to express the gratitude and appreciation for all President Asquino has done,” Ms. Sbrega said. “Dan is synonymous with words like tireless and innovative and creative. These are going to be very difficult shoes to fill, so rather than fill them, we’ll have to find new shoes.”