NEWARK — Central Ohio Technical College welcomed its first new president in 15 years on Jan. 1 as John M. Berry, Ph.D., assumed leadership of the two-year college. Berry succeeded longtime COTC President Bonnie L. Coe, Ph.D., who retired on Dec. 31.
Coe announced her planned retirement in early January 2018. A national search began in April 2018 led by Presidential Search Committee Chair Robert Montagnese, COTC board vice chair and president and CEO of Licking Memorial Health Systems, with executive support from Jacqueline Parrill, Ed.D., COTC vice president for institutional planning and human resources. The COTC Board of Trustees unanimously agreed in July 2018 to name Berry as the next president.
“It is my pleasure to announce that the COTC Board of Trustees has unanimously agreed that Dr. Berry possesses the strategic vision and passion for technical education that will continue to advance COTC’s reputation for high-quality educational programs supporting workforce development,” said Board Chair John Hinderer in his announcement. “He is a proven, results-driven leader with a deep understanding of the higher education landscape and commitment to a student-focused, inclusive environment.”
While Berry’s role as president at COTC is new, he is far from a stranger to the college, having served as the dean of students at COTC and director of student life at Ohio State Newark from 2000 to 2014. He undertakes the presidency with an intimate understanding and commitment to COTC’s mission, to its students and to COTC’s importance to the community.
“The future is very bright for COTC, and I am thrilled to be returning to the college at such an exciting time,” said Berry. “In November, COTC concluded a highly successful reaccreditation visit by the Higher Learning Commission, community support for the college is outstanding and through excellent fiscal management, COTC is debt free. I want to thank President Coe for her years of exemplary leadership, dedication to fiscal responsibility and her ongoing commitment to accessibility for all.”
Most recently, Berry served as the vice president of student affairs and college advancement at BridgeValley Community and Technical College in Montgomery, West Virginia. He also previously served at Rhodes State College as vice president for student affairs and at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina, as vice president for student services and student development. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration from The Ohio State University, a Master of Science in Education from Southern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Berry will become the second sole president of COTC. In 2004, Coe became COTC’s first sole president. At that time, Newark campus leadership and the boards of trustees decided to appoint independent leadership for COTC and The Ohio State University at Newark, as opposed to sharing a single chief administrator as they had done since COTC’s creation in 1971. The long-standing COTC/Ohio State Newark cost-share agreement, however, remained in place, allowing the two institutions to retain efficiencies gained by the sharing of personnel and facilities.
Berry assumes leadership at an exciting juncture in the life of the college with several new initiatives to increase college access underway or in development.
•In summer 2018, COTC began offering short-term certificate programs leading to immediate employment in fields such as phlebotomy, electrocardiography and addiction studies. These certificates can be completed in one or two semesters, allowing graduates to quickly get into the job market in high-demand fields.
•COTC’s College Credit Plus program, which enables middle and high school students to earn college credit during high school, enrolled 1,285 students in autumn 2018 at its four campuses and in local high schools.
•In November 2018, COTC announced the Coshocton Promise, which guarantees that COTC will fund the gap between tuition (instructional and general fees) and remaining student need after all other private scholarships, institutional, federal and state aid are exhausted. Under the program, all tuition will be covered for eligible Coshocton County residents annually reporting a household income of $60,000 or less on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Initial Coshocton Promise funds are made possible through a unique public/private partnership between COTC and the Coshocton Foundation’s Clarence and Grace Miller Scholarship endowment.
•Last summer COTC was awarded $3.2 million from the state capital biennium budget for the complete renovation of the COTC Pataskala campus building. The college is currently creating a campus project plan that will include replacing all mechanicals and constructing an entirely new interior which will optimize the space for classrooms and provide room for additional science and nursing skills labs.
•At the COTC Newark campus, plans for the John and Mary Alford Center for Science and Technology are well underway, which will add much-needed laboratory and classroom space. The Alfords were very supportive of both COTC and Ohio State Newark during their lives, and their children, Ron Alford and Barb Cantlin, along with Barb’s husband, Mike, have continued to carry on the legacy established by the Alfords through their generous lead gift of $2.5 million. Construction of the new Alford Center is projected to begin in 2020 with occupancy in January 2022.