CALAIS, Maine — A man who has an appreciation of the quality of life Down East has just been appointed the new president of Washington County Community College.
Joseph Cassidy, who was born and raised in Calais and attended universities in Maine, comes from a long line of Washington County educators. His father, Vinton Cassidy, just retired from WCCC after 34 years as a Drafting Instructor. His uncle, Bill Cassidy, who worked for the system for 26 years, returned to the college after he retired to serve as interim president after President Joyce Hedlund announced last year that she would retire.
And it all came together last week for the Cassidy’s.
During a meeting of the Maine Community College System’s Administrative Staff and Board of Trustees, Joe Cassidy was appointed president, his father, Vinton, was officially given the status of Instructor Emeritus and his uncle, Bill Cassidy was lauded by officials for his contributions to education.
Joe Cassidy said he was proud of his father and uncle and talked about their influence, as well the eclectic background he brings to his new job.
Prior to accepting the presidency, Cassidy, who has a Master’s Degree in education, was employed by the college for almost a decade as director of the Early Childhood Education program at WCCC. Years earlier he had been an elementary school teacher in Gorham.
“I came home to Calais in 2002 and taught history in at Calais High School. During that period I began working here as a part-time instructor. When the opportunity arose to take over the Early Childhood Education Program, I moved over to the college on a full-time basis” he said.
In addition to his educational background, Joe Cassidy also has his law degree. He has a diverse background in the legal field working as an attorney in a large firm and later in private practice and for a period as an attorney in the Washington County District Attorney’s office.
In his spare time he served as mayor of Calais and before that, as a member of the Calais City Council. He has held numerous roles at the college including co-chairman of the college’s Reaccreditation Committee and president of the Faculty Association, just to name a few.
Cassidy expects his past training and experience will be of value as the college moves forward. “I cut my professional teeth in a school system that was very progressive in Gorham. I also have extensive experience as a lawyer addressing challenges from a problem-solving perspective. Additionally, in my municipal background, I have experienced the challenges of providing adequate services in austere financial times. I think this combination of experience in educational leadership, problem solving, and fiscal responsibility comes together in a nice way, and I hope it will serve me and the college well,” he said.
Cassidy said he was mindful of the challenges ahead. “We have a great faculty. They are very talented and committed. We have a support staff that is second to none. We are among the smallest colleges in Maine and with our location here we are vitally important to this area. I can’t believe how lucky I am to walk into a circumstance like this – to have an opportunity to grow and work with the faculty and staff as we focus together on our future, and challenge of continuing to serve our community,” he said.
Helping students succeed in college is another one of his goals.
The college does a good job of attracting new students. Many of those students come to college, however, lacking in one or more skill areas that they need to succeed in higher education. “We have lost too many students to attrition, they start with us, but for one reason or another don’t finish. That is not just happening here at Washington County Community College, it is a state- wide and national issue at all community colleges,” he said. WCCC has been looking at creative ways to provide new students with whatever academic or other supports they need to succeed after they have enrolled in the college. This will continue to be a focus going forward, Cassidy said.
Another focus area will be developing new programs.
A new program in Human Service was added at WCCC last year and a new one, Small Engine Repair, is to start this fall. Both of those programs are examples of the college examining what programs are needed in our greater community. Cassidy noted that WCCC will continue to look critically at program offerings to ensure that WCCC is offering programs that will offer its students the greatest opportunity for success after graduation. “We are going to continue to examine existing programs to ensure that we are serving the needs of our students and their prospective employers, and we are going to have to be creative as we look at new programs,” he said.
Cassidy said he believed strongly in consensus building and believed that would be a strength he would bring to his presidency. “We have been blessed and are fortunate to have had outstanding and superior leadership at WCCC in the past. My aspiration is to continue to provide leadership at that level,” he said. “I really believe I can help this wonderful faculty and staff as we work together to build a vision of our future, and I believe I can be a strong consensus builder. I expect to be able to provide productive ideas drawing on by varied professional experiences. I really see myself as a leader among peers and I think that will make me successful.”
And maybe the Cassidy leadership will continue long after Joe Cassidy retires years from now.
During his interview with reporters, Cassidy’s son, Max, 7, listened in when not focused on his computer. Cassidy recalled a similar moment when he used to accompany his father to the office. “Thirty-five years ago I used to sit in my father’s office, so I grew up here. This was an important part of our family’s history and we certainly have a great commitment to this college and I am proud to say there is a family connection here. It is something we are proud of,” he said.