News Archive

Dr. Lake stepping down in December 2010

by Victoria Grabner, The Gleaner

Patrick Lake will be stepping down from his position as president of Henderson Community College in December, ending a 25-year tenure that has seen explosive enrollment and campus growth. Dr. Patrick Lake

"I'm in good health," the 62-year-old said. "Looking at where things are at this point, I believe it's best to step down and give someone else the opportunity to assume this presidential role here."

Lake said he is not retiring. He is also not moving on to another position. In fact, he plans to remain in Henderson, where he will have an oversight role at the college during 2011.

His advisory presence will likely serve the college well as Michael McCall, the president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, begins the search process to find a new campus chief.

That process will also include input from the college's board of directors, faculty and staff -- though Lake said he was uncertain when McCall would begin the search.

What is certain is that many changes have taken place during Lake's quarter-century at the helm of Henderson Community College, which has seen an unprecedented increase in enrollment.

Twenty-five years ago, enrollment was 826 students. Now, 2,534 students are enrolled in some fashion -- both full- and part-time -- at The Hill. Full-time student enrollment this spring alone is 18 percent higher than it was last year at this time.

And as the number of students grew, so did the number of two-year technical degree programs.

According to the college's Web site, a large number of certificate programs and scores of customized training courses have been introduced to respond to local workforce needs.

Lake said most of the enrollment growth lately has come in the healthcare program, industrial maintenance, information technology as well as in general education.

Also maturing is the campus itself.

In 1986, the only buildings on campus were the administration building, the student center, the library, and the arts and science classroom building.

Now the campus also has the Henderson Fine Arts Center, the academic technical building and the Sullivan Technology Center, for a total of seven buildings on campus.

Off campus, HCC also added the industrial and electrical technology building on Pennel Street in downtown Henderson, as well as the Herron Technology Center in Morganfield.

"Henderson Community College has evolved into a learning-centered institution, a major center for the performing and visual arts, the lead provider in workforce training, (and as) a leader in online instruction and the use of information technology," the Web site said.

Meanwhile, the college has also seen a shift in the way it delivers its services.

Lake said that, historically, community colleges spent years building up their faculties to improve the quality of their teachers.

Then came a shift toward more "student centered" learning, meaning the college focused much of its time on attracting students and making sure courses were offered at the right times. That was how it was at The Hill when he arrived 25 years ago.

Now the college is "learning centered," which is the next phase in that evolution, he said. That shift came about roughly 10 to 12 years ago at the same time many other colleges were also changing their educational approaches. This theory is focused on preparing students for the skills and knowledge they will need at the college and once they graduate.

"The common denominator is critical analysis," Lake said. "That effort, along with advancements in information technology, are two of the things I feel most proud about. The faculty and staff here have been so willing to (think) outside the box."

But in order to continue to grow, Lake realized early on that the campus also had to bridge a perceived gap between the community and the campus.

He said HCC has tried to do that in a number of ways, from its relationships with business and industries to its growing partnerships with school districts in Henderson, Webster and Crittenden counties.

It has done this by strengthening and enhancing for-credit programs that high school students can receive at the community college.

The college has increased its customized training of students for area employers.

Recently, the college also became a partner in a regional consortium of colleges and universities to strengthen economic development in the Tri-state area and to improve the quality of life for area residents.

The Hill also has working agreements with area institutions like Murray State University, Lindsey Wilson College and Mid-Continent University. All three are providing course work and using the college's facilities, Lake said.

"The partnerships and position of the college as a resource for so many different sectors is I think a critical outcome," he said.

Finally, when it comes time for him to step down in December, Lake said he will likely have to adjust to the change in his day-to-day schedule. But when asked what he will miss the most, he had this to say:

"There is a real, sincere desire to help students and to help our community. (Faculty and staff) want to do it better and they want to do it more easily, and to me that's the real essence of what it's like to work in a place like this."