The leaders of Delgado Community College: 1921-2011

By: D. Shedrick
"The job of chancellor has changed over the years," said Raymonda Dennis, associate professor of sociology who has been an instructor at the Delgado Community College for more than two decades. Dennis has observed that the role of the chancellor used to be the operation and function of the College. Today, it's a little different. The chancellor is a major PR person--responsible for fundraising and promoting the College's image. Being in the driver's seat of a major institution is a huge undertaking and with each new leader there are lots of challenges and a whole new set of goals to reach. Let's take a look at the leaders of Delgado and the charge they had to keep on their watch.  

Director, H. Giles Martin
Director, H. Giles Martin, (1921-1954) - Martin was the first director and before coming to Delgado, was the assistant to the superintendent at the David Ranken, Jr. School of Mechanical Trades in St. Louis, MO. Ranken also began as a trade school training boys and men in mechanical and manual trades like carpentry, bricklaying, plumbing and painting. Doesn't that sound familiar? Martin was the author of a book called, The Importance of Proper Selection of Equipment for Vocational School Shops. It might be safe to say that that was one of the things he focused on during his time as the school’s first director. 

Director, Marvin Thames, Sr.
Director, Marvin Thames, Sr. (1954-1980) - Thames converted the school from a technical or trades school to a comprehensive community college. He initiated the building of the eight-pod shaped O'Keefe Administration Building, and he was the only leader to live in the president's house on the City Park Campus. In 1972, the College became fully accredited under his leadership.

President Harry Boyer
President Harry Boyer
(1980-1988) - Boyer was instrumental in changing the infrastructure of the City Park Campus. Many buildings and facilities were started, completed or renovated under his administration. Boyer was colorful and controversial. As a matter of fact, Boyer had to resign from his position because Buddy Roemer (the governor at that time) threatened to close Delgado because of some of his actions. But in spite of the problems Boyer created, he still managed to be a good president to the faculty and staff. Boyer wasn't shy about getting salary adjustments and raises on behalf of his employers. 

President James Caillier
President James Caillier (1988-1992) - Caillier was the first African-American president and his assignment was to close Delgado, but he got to the College and saw the potential and convinced Gov. Roemer to reverse his decision. Needless to say, he was hired permanently to run the school. Caillier moved quickly in restructuring and adding academic programs. He can be credited with developing the Allied Health division and acquiring Delgado Charity School of Nursing. Caillier was a forward thinker and wanted the college to grow. He imagined 25,000 students at the college, and today with 20,452 students, we are very close to getting there. 

Prsident Ione Elioff
President Ione Elioff (1992-1998) - was Delgado's first female leader. Elioff hailed from California, bringing with her a fresh management style that involved everyone being a part of making decisions. Before that, directors or presidents made all the decisions. Things slowed down a bit while Elioff was president, but the College could use a break after all the work that was done under the previous president.

President J. Terence Kelly
President J. Terence Kelly (1998-2004) - Kelly rejuvenated Delgado's Foundation that raises money for the College. Dr. Kelly’s greatest successes were steering much needed capital improvements at several sites and the expansion of technology, particularly its integration with science. Delgado was one of the first schools in Louisiana to feature a human patient simulator in nursing and allied health training. Under Dr. Kelly, Delgado’s Workforce Development and Education unit emerged, becoming the region’s premier provider of state-funded worker training programs.

Chancellor Alex Johnson
Chancellor Alex Johnson (2004 - 2008) - Johnson was instrumental in changing the image of Delgado. The word Delgado was synonymous with plumbing. Johnson changed that. He strived to remove the trade school reputation and help people realize that Delgado was a legitimate college. He was on a number of boards locally and statewide. Johnson is noted for growing the college’s online education offerings with the creation of the school’s Distance Learning and Instructional Technology department.  And he will always be remembered for his leadership through crisis and the College’s recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Johnson was back on campus a day or two after Katrina surveying the damage. He organized the school and got it functioning again after the devastating storm. 

Chancellor Ron Wright
Chancellor Ron D. Wright (2008-2011) - Wright oversaw the usual day-to-day operations of Delgado. Louisiana Technical College Region 1 became Delgado Community College’s Technical Division under Wright. This change is providing Delgado students with a seamless, full range of options from technical skills training to comprehensive liberal arts education. 

Acting Chancellor Deborah Lea
Acting Chancellor Deborah Lea (2011-present) - As Acting Chancellor, Lea is re-grouping and uniting the College as a whole. Lea is the first Delgado graduate to hold that office. She has quickly established herself as a leader and is creating connections with political and industry leaders by meeting with legislators and the mayor.  She is actively engaged in advancing the mission of the College and keeping Delgado at the table on the region’s most important initiatives, particularly workforce development, transfer degrees, and increasing retention and graduation rates.

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