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Green River Community College selects new president

Green River Community College Board of Trustees selected Eileen Ely, PhD., as its new president, chairman Larry Brown announced during the board’s Monday public meeting.

Ely, a 1969 Kent-Meridian High School graduate, becomes the fourth president of Green River. She was selected following a national search and recommendations made by a search committee comprised of faculty, staff and community members.

Ely will replace Rich Rutkowski, who is retiring at the end of June after serving 26 years as college president.

“The Board of Trustees is excited to announce Dr. Ely as the next president of Green River Community College,” Brown said. “She brings the demonstrated skill set to move our college into the future. With the process completed, now all stakeholders can rally to support the success of our new president.”

Ely comes to Green River from Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC) where she has served as president since 2006. Western Nebraska has three campuses spread over 17,000 square miles and serving 12 counties. As president of WNCC, Ely was charged with the full management responsibility of the college, which employs 470 full and part-time employees and has 2,200 students. The college has more than 80 degree and certificate programs and offers classes in 32 communities.

“The consensus of the search committee is that Dr. Ely is a great fit for the college,” said Linda Sprenger, former college trustee and search committee member. “She will be able to come in and hit the ground running. Dr. Ely is well prepared.”

Prior to WNCC, Ely was campus dean and chief operating officer of Laramie County Community College’s Albany County Campus in Laramie, Wyo. She also has worked at the University of Texas at Austin and the Community College of Denver.

While at the University of Texas, Ely co-wrote a book – “In Pursuit of Excellence: The Community College of Denver” – which identified that school as one of the nation’s foremost learning colleges.

It’s a homecoming, of sorts, for Ely who grew up in the Seattle area and graduated from K-M after her parents moved the family to the east Kent area of Covington.

“It’s my dream job to come home,” said Ely, who added that it is an honor and a privilege to be named president of Green River Community College. “I have big shoes to fill, but I am excited to be working with the Board and the entire Green River family. I can’t wait to get back in the community and get started at Green River.”

Ely holds a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in education administration with a major focus on community college leadership, a master’s degree from Iowa State University, and a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University.

Her professional affiliations include The League for Innovation – Executive Leadership Institute; AACC/ACCT – Leadership Academy; Nebraska Community College Council of Chief Executive Officers; Twin Cities Development Executive Board; Nebraska Information Technology Commission; United Way Board of Directors; Employee Support of the Guard and Reserves; and the Scottsbluff Rotary.

Retiring at the end of June, Rutkowski has led Green River since 1984 when he was appointed as president, replacing James Chadbourne.

“Words cannot adequately express the Board’s appreciation for President Rutkowski’s dedication and outstanding leadership,” said Brown, who added the Board looks forward to President Rutkowski’s comprehensive transition plan in working with Dr. Ely.

Rutkowski began his career at GRCC in 1974 as the college’s dean for business affairs. During his tenure as president, Rutkowski presided over unparalleled growth at the college, opening access for thousands of students by constructing or renovating over 500,000 square feet of educational space including the development of campuses in Kent and Enumclaw.

Under Rutkowski’s leadership, Green River developed a comprehensive international program serving over 1,000 students annually from more than 40 countries. Rutkowski led the formation of the Green River Community College Foundation in 1975 with the purpose of providing resources to assist the college. To date, the foundation has raised more than $13 million for scholarships and programs.

About GRCC

Green River is a comprehensive community college with academic transfer classes, professional technical programs, adult basic skills classes and continuing education. The college is one of the top transfer community colleges in the state. It also boasts one of the largest Worker Retraining and Running Start programs. Green River is nationally known for math, science and teacher preparation and features unique programs like aviation, broadcasting, computer reporting technologies, and natural resources. More than 10,000 students attend the college quarterly.

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