2021 | Schools

Montgomery College building named in honor of outgoing president

Trustees finalize appointment of interim president, hire search firm

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Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard reacts as the Board of Trustees announces it will name a school facility in Germantown in her honor.

Screenshot via live stream

A facility on Montgomery College’s Germantown campus will be named in honor of outgoing President DeRionne Pollard, describing her as a “visionary” who propelled the institution to national prominence.

The building — the site of admissions, financial aid, counseling, advising and more — will now be called the “Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard Student Affairs and Science Building.” It opened in January 2020.

The decision was announced during a Board of Trustees meeting on Monday night. It was seemingly a surprise to Pollard, who was visibly emotional.

“I’m completely overwhelmed,” Pollard said. “I should have expected something, but I didn’t expect all of this.”

Pollard will leave Montgomery College in August after 11 years at the helm. She has taken a new job as president of Nevada State College in Henderson, Nev., near Las Vegas.

She will be replaced by Charlene Dukes, former president of Prince George’s Community College, who will serve as interim president until a new president is selected. The Board of Trustees formally approved Dukes’ appointment to the interim position on Monday night.

The board also approved a contract with Greenwood/Asher & Associates, a Florida-based firm tasked with helping lead a nationwide search for a successor. The firm will be paid $60,000 or one-third of the total of the hired candidate’s first-year salary, whichever is greater.

During Monday’s meeting, the Board of Trustees and other Montgomery College staff members said naming the student affairs building in honor of Pollard is a fitting tribute because she has been committed to bettering the educational experience for students during her tenure.

Pollard launched programs like Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES), the Achieving the Promise Academy (ATPA) and Presidential Scholars to help thousands of students receive financial aid, support services, and mentoring and coaching.

They also cited Pollard’s work to secure funds for several building projects, and expand career programs to meet community needs.

The student member of the Board of Trustees, Richelle Adu, said she and her fellow students have routinely felt validated by Pollard because she has taken the time to get to know them and listen to their concerns and needs.

“I think we can see from the way you speak to students, the policies that you bring forward to the Board of Trustees and everything that you put your support on is always student-focused,” Adu said. “It’s always student first and you always care about the individuals, no matter the cost.”

Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice briefly joined the meeting to praise Pollard’s work over the past decade.

He said a unique quality of Pollard’s was that she not only devised new ideas and gave employees the flexibility to try new things, but she also marketed her initiatives in a way that garnered support.

“Not everybody always has the same vision. Not everybody believes that that vision can be accomplished,” Rice said. “But you were able to not only come up with these ideas that would take the college to the next level, but also convinced the board that this was the right direction for us to go in and ensure that you had their support, as well. … You are an exemplary leader.”

Dukes, after being approved as interim president, said she is ready to “ensure the college continues to advance the work begun” under Pollard’s leadership.

The two women said they have been friends for many years, and Pollard said Dukes has been a mentor throughout her career.

“So, thank you very much for this opportunity,” Dukes said, “and thank you for placing your confidence in me for the next several months.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com