New Erie Co. Community College picks its interim president

The Erie, Pa. skyline (Capital-Star photo by Hannah McDonald)

ERIE, Pa. — Erie County’s new community college has its first interim president.

On Thursday, the college’s Board of Trustees announced that it had appointed Dr. Judith Gay, the former Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Chief of Staff for the Community College of Philadelphia to lead Pennsylvania’s newest community college. Gay has also been a member of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. 

She starts on on Feb. 1, officials said.

During a virtual news conference on Thursday, Gay remarked on her gratitude to be joining the years-long effort by the rust belt community “to make this opportunity for education a reality in Erie,” Gay said. 

“I am passionately committed to education. And particularly to community college education,” Gay said. 

Because, as she explained, “Community colleges were started to provide affordable, quality education; To provide access; To democratize education for people who couldn’t afford to go away to school and had to say in their own communities and needed higher education.” 

Gay’s appointment as interim president at the Erie college comes just over six months after the Pennsylvania Board of Education certified that the Erie Community College would become the commonwealth’s 15th community college. 

The board’s chairman, Ron DiNicola, called the appointment, “yet another historic moment for the Erie County Community College.”

“We are proud to be the first community college in Pennsylvania in 27 years and the most recent community college in the country,” DiNicola said.

Though the establishment of the community college was supported by Gov. Tom Wolf, Erie faced vehement pushback from former state Sen. Joseph Scarnati and the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College (NPRC). 

NPRC provides post-secondary educational learning to Erie County residents as well as students of all ages in nine surrounding counties through a blend of in-person and online instruction. 

Despite opposition on the grounds that Erie already had a community college in NPRC, the state board certified that a brick and mortar college in the heart of the community would meet Erie’s needs and fulfill the criteria set forth by the Community College Act of 1963

It is expected that the Erie County Community College will begin offering classes in the fall of this year. 

Correspondent Hannah McDonald covers Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow her on Twitter @HannahMcD0nald.