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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Wojciechowski reflects on the past as he begins a new chapter

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  • After 24 years at the controls at Pratt Community College, President Emeritus William Wojciechowski is retiring on Aug. 31 and getting ready to get reacquainted with his family including a grandson he hasn't seen in two years.
    Over the years Wojciechowski has put aside family time to run the college and now its time to make the family top priority again.
    Wojciechowski and wife Terri plan to do a lot of traveling and see a lot of places they haven't been.
    Although Wojciechowski was hired as president, the Trustees actually got a team.
    "Terri has supported me and has worked hard to promote the college in the community. Her efforts have attracted many donors," Wojciechowski said. "Her support has made a big difference."
    He is interested in taking on an interim president position somewhere but not right away.
    His 24 years at PCC started with a friend telling him about a job opening with some tough issues.
    Wanted: Community college president to take over Kansas college in financial distress, disorganized and has just discontinued its football program causing the loss of 100 Full Time Equivalent students.
    That was the challenge facing Wojciechowski, a retired colonel in the Air Force with a strong education background, when he took over in March 1989. Wojciechowski heard about the job opening from his friend Rodney Cox who had been at the Community College of the Air Force with him and was the president of Butler Community College.
    Cox said he knew of a college looking for a president that fit Wojciechowski's profile perfectly because the college, PCC, was in shambles and would definitely have some challenges.
    Wojciechowski's last couple of jobs at the Air Force required him to take organizations that were out of control and get them into working order. It seemed like a perfect fit for his 28 years of experience in the Air Force.
    He was looking at other community college positions as well including two vice president options. But he didn't want to work for a president. He wanted to be a president.
    During his interview visit to PCC he found Cox had been correct but he also found some dedicated and sincere people willing to work. They were just lacking direction.
    "There may be challenges but there was lot of potential here," Wojciechowski said during his interview with faculty and staff.
    During his interview he could sense an uneasiness about the future. The finances were not in good shape but the faculty and staff were not shy about sharing the problems at the college.
    When he took over as president on March 6, 1989 he put his philosophy in place: "What goes on here is my responsibility."
    His first day on the job was a Saturday. He walked into the college and it struck him as a very strange place. The front door was unlocked, half the lights were on and nobody was home. But he quickly got passed that first impression and got to work.
    Page 2 of 3 - His first mission was to change every thing in his office and gave it a whole new look as a symbol of his outlook for the college.
    "I wanted to send a signal that things were going to change," Wojciechowski said.
    And things needed changing. It seemed like the Board of Trustees had fired everyone. Betty Stevens was interim dean of instruction and was his only administrator. There was no business officer, no student support system and many other gaps.
    He gathered all people who were in senior positions for each department and put them in charge. He told them if they had a problem they couldn't handle to bring it to him.
    He started hiring administrators and that was the beginning of the turn around.
    The Riney Student Center was just a shell and it was finished out. A childcare center was established that is now the home for Electric Power Technology.
    The nursing program, one of his highest priorities, got national accreditation and has grown into one of the finest programs in the state and country with Chandler Hall and its later addition. The Winfield site nursing program, the Sim Hospital at Wichita Area Technical College were also added.
    The electric power program and the extensive use of technology in the classroom are important keys as well as using ITV to reach out to students in other communities.
    The establishment of EDUKAN as a distance teaching tool helped fulfill that mission and brings in $60,000 a year to the college allowing more student programs.
    He established the student services complex. They had been scattered all over campus but are now in one spot that was the original cafeteria.
    With organization came growth and a need for living space. North Hall, Scholarship Hall and most recently East Hall, now named after Wojciechowski, were built.
    In sports, baseball and softball batting complexes were added as well as a men's and women's soccer program and a new soccer field. A wrestling program was also initiated.
    Another addition will be completed after Wojciechowski has retired. An addition to the Ag Power building is scheduled for construction early in 2014 and made possible through a generous donation from Carl Dudrey that will cover half the cost of the building.
    When he took over in 1989, the FTE student count was 702. The highest level was in 2011 with 1,170 FTE. Between 1,130 FTE and 1,150 FTE is expected for 2013-2014.
    At the start his biggest challenge was to restore the communitiy's confidence in the college. He, the administration and staff became conspicuously visible and supportive in the community. They became more mission focused and committed to service.
    Wojciechowski personally visited every grain cooperative in the county and met with farmers. He listened to their concerns about the taxes for the college. He told them where the taxes went and promised that the administration, staff and trustees would carefully mange the money and it was worth the investment.
    Page 3 of 3 - He worked diligently to improve the college's reputation in the state and get the respect from the other colleges in the state.
    Getting the college off probation was a big step in that process. With the improvements, the college got a 10 year accreditation in 1995 and when they were up for re-accreditation in 2005, the Higher Learning Commission found no deficiencies, a very rare event, Wojciechowski said.
    The credit for all the growth goes to the administration, faculty and staff for their support, diligence and hard work. And to the PCC Trustees, who, through the years, have been very supportive, have run interference for Wojciechowski and taken risks for a better college.
    As he leaves, Wojciechowski wants the faculty, staff and administration to get behind and support Calvert, take advantage of their potential, never forget why they are at PCC and when they leave make sure it is a better place than when they arrived.
    Calvert will take over with a good foundation for the future.
    "He's got all the ingredients for success," Wojciechowski said.

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