Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, the president emeritus of Cuyahoga Community College, was the third recipient of the Diverse Champions award presented at the American Association of Community Colleges conference taking place this week in Washington, D.C.
A veteran educator, Thornton retired last June after 21 years on the job. At a reception held Sunday evening, Thornton said the award was “validation of the work I’ve done over the years in promoting diversity.”
A daughter of a coal miner and farmer, Thornton is still involved with Cuyahoga, working as a consultant with the school’s foundation and helping to raise scholarships for deserving students, said Dr. Alex Johnson, the current president of Cuyahoga.
The Diverse Champions Award recognizes higher education leaders who have shown unwavering commitment to equal opportunity and access for all, particularly at the community college level. The award was created by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education in 2012 upon the retirement of the inaugural Champions Award winner, Dr. John E. Roueche, as director of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin.
Last year’s recipient, Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Community Colleges, said that “there’s never been anyone more deserving of such an award,” pointing out that during Thornton’s tenure in higher education, she mentored a legion of younger scholars who have devoted themselves to the community college.
“Not only is she a great leader, but she’s a better person,” Bumphus said.
AACU will continue until Tuesday and will feature workshops and keynote speeches from Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Jamal Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on twitter @jamalericwatson.