At the College’s Academic Year 2017-18 Opening Day—the start of his 18th year as president of Greenfield Community College—Bob Pura announced he will be retiring from the position he has held since 2000. In a speech to faculty and staff, Bob let his colleagues know that this academic year would be his last. His vision, his compassion and his ‘true north’ focus on the importance of access to a quality education, combined with his passionate commitment to students and their success, have informed his exemplary leadership. That, along with his humor and community-minded spirit, will be missed.
The accomplishments over his 18 years of leadership are too many to list, but a few examples that demonstrate his commitment to student success and the College’s reach into the community follow:
- Worked toward a sustainable future with a Silver LEED certified main campus building renovation and the development of the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Agriculture academic programs;
- Developed deep and lasting collaborations—between GCC and the community—with Franklin/Hampshire K-12 schools, Western MA colleges, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Community Action of Pioneer Valley, the Regional Employment Board, Franklin County Community Development Corporation, Franklin County Opioid Task Force, Franklin County House of Corrections, Chambers of Commerce for Franklin County, Greater Northampton and Greater Amherst Areas, local business leaders, and GCC’s wonderful legislative delegation—in service to students, the College and community
- Fundraised, along with the GCC Foundation Board of Directors and staff, over $14 million in support of programs and students at GCC
- Oversaw main campus building renovations, including Core Building total redesign and East Building expansion—the only college in the Commonwealth that has had all of its buildings renovated.
- Identified GCC’s core message and how it informs the work of its faculty and staff: “There’s a clarity of focus on relationships and community here. And when relationships are powerful and community is powerful and people know they belong somewhere, then learning is powerful.” – Bob Pura
A graduate of community college himself, the first in his family to attend college and the son of an immigrant, Bob received his Associates Degree from Miami-Dade Community College, Bachelors from the University of South Florida, Masters from St. Thomas University and his Ph.D. in educational administration with a focus on community college leadership from the University of Texas in Austin. As a first generation college student, he understands what a community college education can mean to students and the responsibility that brings to its president, saying “Opening the doors to higher education to all who aspire to a better life for themselves and their families while at the same time maintaining high academic standards is the noblest of missions in higher education.”
Bob has chaired the Massachusetts President’s Council, was a member of the Working Group on Assessment of Student Learning for the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and served on the Commission on Academic Student and Community Development for the American Association of Community Colleges. He sits on the Boards of Directors of The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Baystate Health, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Higher Education Commission and the American Association for Colleges and Universities.
At the core of his learning experience, however, are the students and colleagues he has worked with over his 40 year career. “It really was my students who taught me most about teaching,” he said. “And here at GCC, it is the faculty, staff and the students who have taught me how to lead a college.”
Since becoming president, he has seen investment in public education decrease dramatically across the country and in Massachusetts. He said this trend began in 1980, and got worse after the 2008 recession, with some years of reprieve. But this community has risen to the challenge, he added, mostly through creative collaboration among schools, area employers and nonprofits and especially so the donors to the GCC Foundation. “We do more with less, but we would love to have the opportunity to do more with more,” he mused.
Bob’s impact on the College and its profound impact on changing lives and strengthening communities is not recognized just by his students, colleagues and others in the higher education system. Following are just some of the statements made by the extended community of GCC friends, supporters and collaborators:
- Bob has not only been an incredible president of GCC, but he’s been an incredible leader in this community. – U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern
- Bob Pura came to us well prepared to lead the campus. He proved himself time and time again as a visionary, competent, inspiring and community minded leader. His legacy is a strong, quality institution dedicated to the service of its communities. He will be missed. – State Senator Stan Rosenberg
- Bob is a remarkable person. The opportunity the delegation has had to work with him to advocate for GCC and for public higher education is greatly appreciated by all of us with the privilege to represent this area. Bob has made it his mission to speak on behalf of what GCC means to the local culture and economy and the impact of his work is seen every day in countless way. – State Representative Steve Kulik
- Bob has left a beautiful legacy both for the college and for the community. He was the perfect fit because he was about community and possibilities. – Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan
- His service to the community and behind the scenes work that he has done deserves recognition as one of those among us who give of themselves to help their fellow man, not for the recognition, but because it’s the right thing to do. – Mike Rifanburg, Publisher, Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Greenfield Recorder (presenting the 2017 Citizen of the Year Award)
- He’s the most successful man that I’ve ever known with no ego. Replacing Bob is going to be the toughest part of my career. – Rob Cohn, Chair, GCC Board of Trustees
- Bob is a real visionary, a great communicator and an excellent listener. He is someone who is genuinely interested in people’s goals. – Patricia Crosby, Executive Director, Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board
- Bob has a way of weaving the story of GCC together. Great educators have a way of telling a story and helping to include people in telling that story and he’s able to do that. – Clare Higgins, Executive Director, Community Action of Pioneer Valley
- Bob Pura is confident and fearless. When you’re confident in where you want to be and the motivations to get you there, it gives you an element of fearlessness, and I think that’s where he is when it comes to education. – Chris Donelan, Franklin County Sheriff
It is clear that Bob has been an integral part of this College and this community. He has spearheaded initiatives that are now embedded in the good work of our colleagues on and off the campus. He has brought GCC to the forefront of every traditional and non-traditional student, regardless of whether they previously saw themselves as college bound. And he has positioned this institution for the local, statewide and national recognition that Greenfield Community College has received for being a leader in providing access to a quality education.
Thank you, Bob, for changing lives at GCC for 18 years. You will be missed.