Logo horizontal ruler

Dr. Robertson Retires as SMC President

By Jorge Casuso

November 17 -- Dr. Piedad F. Robertson -- who ushered Santa Monica College into the new high-tech millennium and led an unprecedented expansion of its facilities -- announced Wednesday that she is retiring after a decade as president.

Robertson -- whose retirement becomes effective Jan. 31, 2005 -- will assume the position of President of the Education Commission of the States (ECS), a 40-year-old national education policy organization.

"This is a bittersweet moment for me," Robertson said. "I am immensely proud of this outstanding institution's many achievements and of the role I played in moving it forward. I will miss my colleagues and many good friends at the college.

“At the same time,” Robertson said, “I am excited about the opportunities at ECS to have an impact on educational policy -- from Kindergarten through university -- at a national level."

A driving force at both the local and state levels since taking over SMC’s top post in 1995, Robertson guided the college through a devastating earthquake that left facilities battered and a State fiscal crisis that siphoned funds from community colleges.

Robertson also led an unprecedented expansion of the college, which has maintained its spot as the top transfer institution to the University of California and USC, overseeing the opening of the Academy of Entertainment & Technology, the Bundy Campus and Emeritus College, as well as the soon-to-be-built Madison complex.

"SMC is losing a great leader whose courage and vision have pushed this college to new heights," said SMC Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Margaret Quiñones. "We wish Dr. Robertson well and we know that she will help shape national education policy as brilliantly as she shaped our college.

“Among her many legacies here -- which have all been driven by her love for students -- will be her success in getting greater equity in funding for community colleges. Piedad is the alma and córazon of SMC."

Robertson will succeed Ted Sanders, as president of the Denver-based ECS, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization created in 1965 to improve public education by facilitating the exchange of information, ideas and experiences among state policy makers and education leaders.

"After a thorough and exhaustive search,” said Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is chairman of ECS, “and after considering dozens of very qualified, exceptional prospects, the committee concurred enthusiastically that Dr. Robertson brought a unique blend of experience at both the state and local levels in all phases of education from preschool to higher education."

Robertson’s work with Democrats and Republicans showed she was "more interested in getting the job done than in ideology," a quality that impressed the committee, Huckabee said.

In 2003, Robertson was appointed to The Arnold Schwarzenegger Transition Committee and was named special advisor to California Secretary of Education Richard Riordan.

"I consider Dr. Robertson to be both my friend and mentor," former Los Angeles mayor Riordan said. "I am certain the students and community of Santa Monica City College will miss her greatly. However, she will now be able to serve our nation with her passion for education and compassion for all students."

Robertson said she will advise the SMC Board of Trustees to appoint SMC Executive Vice President of Business and Administration Tom Donner to serve as acting president until her replacement is selected.

She also said that she and her husband Bill Robertson will keep their home in Santa Monica and continue to be residents of the city.

A major catalyst for change, Robertson oversaw the hiring of more than 160 new full-time, tenure-track faculty members and the passage of two bond measures totaling $295 million that “will transform SMC with new facilities and safety and modernization projects over the next decade,” according to a statement issued by the college.

Robertson is credited with creating the SMC Academy of Entertainment and Technology -- which prepares students for jobs in the entertainment industry, particularly digital animation and new media -- and expanding workforce and economic development programs in such fields as nursing.

Under her leadership, the college also purchased the 10-acre BAE Systems property at Santa Monica Airport, which will become a major satellite campus in 2005, helping to ease traffic and parking on the main campus, college officials said.

Other major developments during her tenure include the $23 million Library Expansion & Modernization, the opening of a new $35 million, state-of-the-art Science Complex and the upcoming construction of the Madison Theatre Project, a 500-seat arts and education facility funded with public and private funds and supported by SMC alumnus Dustin Hoffman and other artists and leaders.

Known as a national education leader, Robertson is one of just seven members on the Gates Millennium Scholars Program Advisory Council, which oversees the $1 billion scholarship endowment created in 1999 by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. She is active with many local, state and national organizations, including the American Council on Education.

Robertson's many honors include the 2002 Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice, the 1999 Woman of the Year Award from the Santa Monica YWCA and the 1997 Status of Women Award from the American Association of University Women.

Before coming to Santa Monica College, Robertson served four years as Massachusetts Secretary of Education, where she oversaw the drafting of one of the most comprehensive K-12 education reform laws ever offered in Massachusetts. Prior to her appointment as Education Secretary, she served as President of Bunker Hill Community College from 1988 to 1991.

A native of Cuba, Robertson received her B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Miami and was awarded an Ed.D. from Florida Atlantic University. She has held a number of administrative and faculty positions at Miami Dade Community College, Broward Community College and the University of Miami.

With a staff of 51 and an annual budget of $11 million to $13 million, ECS is the nation's preeminent, nonpartisan source of information, ideas and leadership on education policy. It tracks trends, translates research, provides advice and creates opportunities for governors, legislators and other state leaders to learn from one another. ECS's ultimate purpose is to help states improve their schools and colleges.

Lookout Logo footer image
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.
Footer Email icon