PDCCC hopeful stresses knowledge

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

■ Third in a series

FRANKLIN—The next president of Paul D. Camp Community College will need to work to build relationships with community leaders and employers to lead students to employment, according to Dr. Don Pearl, a finalist for the position.

“It’s always difficult, especially when you’re in an economic downturn and people aren’t hiring … but there’s always need somewhere,” he said. “It’s all about building relationships.”

Pearl, a Colorado native, said his family instilled the value and power of education in him growing up.

“I have a strong desire for learning. I have a strong desire for discovery, so much so that I went into physics when I went to college,” he said during an open forum at the college on Monday. “I got my degree in physics because it seemed like the neatest thing in the world that you could study.”

Pearl went on to pursue a master’s degree in mathematics and a doctorate in experimental physics.

In addition to a “strong academic background,” Pearl said he has also taught “at all levels,” even in Germany for a time.

“It was a great experience and one that I think really changed how I view my own life and my own expectations,” he said of his experience in Germany.

Before assuming his current position of academic vice president of Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Ill., Pearl was a department chair and then dean of academic affairs at Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston, Ga.

Pearl said that Sauk Valley’s service area has experienced hard economic times in recent years. He said the region used to be known as “the hardware capital of the world.”

“A lot of those factories have moved away and now we’re trying to help our citizens with new job skills,” he said. Pearl said the college has started programs in wind energy, which is growing in the region, to help train the workforce.

Retraining the workforce after a factory or business shutdown is one of the strengths of community colleges, he said.

“We can help service areas where those types of events happen,” Pearl said.

As a leader, Pearl said that he would embrace technology and believes in consensus-building and collaboration.

“I like to bring people together and I like to think of myself as a leader rather than as some sort of authoritative figure,” he said.

Pearl said he has certain traits that make him right for the job of president.

“As someone who’s studied mathematics and physics for 12 years or more of his life, I’m a good problem-solver,” he said. “I like to break things down I like to analyze processes and procedures to see if there’s some way we can do things more efficiently and more effectively.”

Pearl said that he would be a visible and approachable president for not only the student body but also the community at-large. He also said it’s important that the president “make sure that the college’s reputation is well-known” in the region.

“I really think that I can have a positive impact on this area and this community,” he said. “The president needs to be seen and be accessible by the community”

After going on a tour of the college facilities and the service area, Pearl said: “It’s clear that this institution is a great resource for the community. Serving as its president would be an honor and a privilege.”

Community colleges have a profound effect on communities and individuals, Pearl said.

“We meet people who have such desperate needs … and we open doors to education so they can change their lives,” he said. “And that’s why it’s important for us to be here.”

Pearl and his wife, Amy, live in Illinois. They are avid travelers and are looking forward to exploring historical sites in the region.