Pikes Peak Community College President Tony Kinkel resigned Thursday after 3 1/2 years on the job, catching the education community off guard.
“I have received Dr. Kinkel’s resignation from the presidency of Pikes Peak Community College and I thank him for his work,” said Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, in a prepared statement. “Tony has many accomplishments to his credit and has served the college well. We all wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Cliff Richardson, vice president of finance and administration for the college system, will serve as interim president of PPCC.
Richardson expects to serve as interim president of PPCC for at least three to four weeks, he said, as the next steps are determined. He will be spending time in the next few weeks speaking with college personnel and community members to determine what comes next.
“I don’t want this to impact services or events for students, and I don’t think it will,” Richardson said.
Although he has served as a college president in the past, at Red Rocks Community College, Richardson said he is not interested in a permanent position at PPCC.
“I love my job at the system office,” he said. “My heart is in the fiscal side of the house.”
On Friday, Richardson will start meeting with the vice presidents that report to him, and the college leadership group will hold its regular meeting. He said he has no idea who might be named as a long-term interim president.
In an interview, Kinkel said he had been thinking about leaving for a couple of months.
“It was the best job in the world,” Kinkel said. “But I’ve been going 100 miles an hour for three and a half years, and have helped set the vision. It’s time for me to look at other challenges.”
Richardson said Kinkel’s resignation was a surprise, but also said being a college president is a very demanding job.
“Tony has done great things for the college,” he said.
Kinkel said he had not been pushed out of the position.
“I was shocked when I heard. He has been nothing short of amazing in what he has done for the college,” said Colorado Senate Majority Leader John Morse, from Colorado Springs.
Morse said he is concerned about the turnover in PPCC’s top office.
“I wonder what is going on here,” he said. “When I get back in session I will find out.”
Joseph Garcia, PPCC president for five years, resigned in 2006, then took the helm at Colorado State University at Pueblo.
Morse and others said Kinkel, hired in 2007, had many accomplishments to his credit. Among them: retention of minority students increased by 20 percent; crisis counselors were hired to work with returning military veterans; z retention specialist was hired to keep more men enrolled; budget reserves were increased from $3 million to $26 million; the college entered into a unique partnership with The Classical Academy charter school; a new campus in Falcon was built; and enrollment swelled by 4,000 students.
In an e-mail to the college Thursday, Kinkel said, “You’ve been the finest group of people I’ve ever worked with. Over the past few months, I have been reflecting upon all of our accomplishments together. I am satisfied that we accomplished what we set out to do.”
A single father, Kinkel said he will take some time off before deciding what he will do next.
Before coming to Colorado, Kinkel served as a state senator and representative in Minnesota, and served as a community college chancellor in Arkansas, and as director of Maryland Association of Community Colleges.
Kinkel’s departure will create something of a leadership vacuum among area colleges. Colorado College President Richard Celeste plans to retire at the end of the 2011 academic year.