A retirement reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. May 7 at the Riney Center.

The close of the 2012-2013 academic year at Pratt Community College also brings an end of 38 years of service to the college for Vice President for Instruction Jim Stratford.

Almost all of his life was spent in Pratt County and he was associated with PCC for most of that life.

Stratford said he likes the job because he gets to help people who want to help themselves either by getting a degree and going on to more education or going into the work force so they can support a family and become a productive member of society.

It is always an interesting job.

"I never know for sure what I'm going to be doing when I come to work," Stratford said. "You never know what challenges you will face. It keeps you on your toes."

The toughest part of his job has been helping students who don't know how to help themselves or aren't motivated to be successful in college or helping students who don't have the basic academic skills to be successful in college.

He has seen a lot of people come and go during his time at PCC but two have had a special impact on his life.

Dean of Student Service Ray McKinney was always dedicated to helping students. He was a very steady influence on everyone around him.

"You could always depend on Ray McKinney," Stratford said. "He was a good man."

McKinney had a saying, "Is it going to affect the price of wheat?" In times of stress, McKinney would say that and it seemed to calm the waters.

Former PCC President Norman Myers taught Stratford what it took to be a college administrator, the dedication it took to do the job and to do it with the highest ethics and integrity.

Retiring PCC President William Wojciechowski was the best manager of an organization Stratford ever worked with and always had the most outstanding morals.

"His (Wojciechowski) skills and ethics built PCC into a quality institution with comprehensive student services," Stratford said.

The college had low points as well but the lowest for Stratford was discontinuing football. The college lost a lot of community interaction and an important athletic program that brought many students to PCC.

Another low point was losing the yearbook. It was a major loss of history, Stratford said.

Stratford was born and raised on a farm in northwest Pratt County in the Byers community that included dairy, wheat and irrigation.

He graduated from Byers High School in 1966. He attended PCC from 1966 to 1968 then went to the University of Kansas and graduated in 1971.

He then attended Wichita State University and received his MBA in 1973. Following that he taught and took graduate courses at Oklahoma State University.

His heart was still in Pratt County so he moved back and became a farmer. He bought a house and started farming and raising cattle in the Coats area.

But in the fall of 1974 an advertisement in the Pratt Tribune changed his life forever. The college needed a business administration replacement for a full time teacher that had to take a medical leave.

When spring rolled around the teacher had not returned and the college offered him a full time position for the 1975-1976 school year and he has been at PCC ever since.

In 1975 a conversation with college President Norman Myers changed Stratford's life again.

Myers invited Stratford to take over financial and facilities operations. But he also wanted him to continue teaching full time at the same time. Myers also wanted Stratford to take on the new duties without pay because the college was close to being broke.

So for a yearly salary of $10,000 he took over the new position and taught.

"It seemed like a naive decision at the time but if I hadn't done it I would not have been here for 38 years," Stratford said.

Stratford has helped make many of the changes happen on campus during his tenure.

His first highlight at PCC was when he was a student and made the move from the old building to the current campus.

An academic highlight was helping get the college accredited for the first time in 1980. The North Central Association, now the Higher Learning Commission, approved a five-year accreditation followed with a 10-year accreditation in 1985 and a 10 year accreditation every time after that.

PCC was never on probation and always received the maximum accreditation, a stamp of a quality institution, Stratford said.

The accreditation in 2005 was especially impressive because the college had zero deficiencies, a very rare event and almost unheard of.

Getting the college area vocational school status in 1982 was also a major moment in his career. It took a lot of community support to make it happen. Thousands signed petitions but the Kansas Department of Education didn't want to give the status so over 50 community residents went to Topeka and filled the KDE boardroom to standing room only.

The Board approved vocational school status and since then PCC has received hundreds of thousands of dollars for vocational outlay funds.

Among his other accomplishments, Stratford helped establish the nursing program that grew from eight graduates in 1982 to 250 students in the entire program today, the formation of EDUKAN, an on-line course program with five other Kansas community colleges that has 88 on-line courses and serves over 3,000 students including some deployed to Afghanistan.

Stratford was the first elected chair of the Kansas Academic Officers Association and the first Community College All Academic Chair, he led the state committee that developed regulations for concurrent enrollment for high school students and helped establish regulations for remedial development programs for Kansas.

Stratford is married to Joyce and they have four grown children and nine grandchildren.

PCC positions

• Instructor

• Director of Business Services

• Dean of Business Services

• Dean of Vocational Education

• Dean of Administrative Services

• Director of Arts and Sciences

• Dean of Instruction

• Dean of Arts and Sciences

• Vice President for Instruction

• Athletic Director

• Acting President

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