Hackley Calls It Quits after Two Years Doing `Undoable’ Job
Charlotte, N.C.–Soon after he became president of the North
Carolina Community College System two years ago, Dr. Lloyd “Vic”
Hackley began encountering friction.
Some people said he was forceful — too forceful. Others complained
he was an outsider who didn’t know the community college system.
Following weeks of speculation, Hackley announced on January 9 that
he’ll leave the presidency of the country’s third-largest community
college system by the end of the school year to pursue other interests.
Hackley’s hard-charging style — coupled with the difficulty of a
politically charged job that gave him little real power — conspired to
do him in, observers said.
In an interview after his announcement, Hackley said no one forced
him out. “This is my call; I have made it; and I made it with a lot of
soul-searching because the community college system is so important.”
Still, he says: “I am not naive enough to believe that everybody with whom I work wanted me to be here.”
His departure comes as the fifty-eight-campus system with 779,000
students is poised to implement sweeping changes. They include
switching from quarters to semesters beginning this fall, bringing
uniformity to course offerings across the state and guaranteeing that
credit from community college classes will transfer to the state’s
A political scientist and retired Air Force major, Hackley,
fifty-six, took over as president in January 1995 following a
successful tenure as chancellor at historically Black Fayetteville
He also came to the community college presidency with impressive
connections. He’s been a friend of President Clinton since their days
in Arkansas, when Clinton was governor and he was chancellor of the
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He now chairs the President’s
Advisory Board of Historically Black Colleges.
From the start, though, some people think think the deck was stacked against Hackley the community college job.
“It is an almost undoable job, in that the organizational structure
of the community college system limits the effectiveness of even a very
strong president,” said Dr. C.D. “Dick” Spangler Jr., president of the
University of North Carolina system.
Presidents of the state’s fifty-eight community colleges don’t
report to the state president; they report to their local boards of
trustees. “Those presidents have substantial independence and they do
not move at all just because of the wishes of the community college
president,” Spangler said.
That kind of organization, which requires a politically savvy
president who can lead by consensus, didn’t fit Hackley’s forceful
style, some observers say.
“He didn’t have the patience, the ability to bite his tongue, to
deal with the many constraints that make that job an impossible job,”
said one community college system board member, who asked not to be
Hackley said he has tried to tell presidents that he wants to help
them do their jobs, not run their campuses. But some still believed
that “I was going to try to turn this into a system controlled by” the
central office in Raleigh, he said.
His job has been made more difficult, some insiders say, because
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker serves as chairman of the
community college board.
Hackley said he hasn’t had a problem with Wicker’s dual role. But
others believe Wicker’s presence as chairman politicizes the community
college system. Wicker couldn’t be reached for comment.
Some observers also believe Hackley wasn’t accepted because he’s African American.
“I’ve heard that same thing,” Hackley said. “But there are so many
things I brought to the system that people thought were negative —
that I was associated with the Clinton administration, that I came from
the university system, that I came from a Black college. Does being
Black in America exacerbate it? I would have to say, yeah, probably.”
During his tenure, Hackley has led a massive effort to re-engineer
the community colleges. “As traumatic as it will be when we go through
all these changes, this system and the people of North Carolina are
going to be better off,” he said.
Many of the changes were mandated by the state legislature, and
they weren’t always welcomed by the state’s fifty-eight campuses.
Still, Lenoir Community College President Lonnie Blizzard,
president of the N.C. Association of the Community College President,
believes most top administrators supported Hackley.
“Certain decisions, even though I support him, I wish had gone
another way,” Blizzard said. He declined to give specific examples,
saying, “It’s water under the bridge now.”
Wicker said in a statement that the process of naming a new
president will begin immediately. Some observers believe campus leaders
will lobby for a new president to be promoted from one of the campuses.
The president is elected by the North Carolina Board of Community
Colleges, whose members are appointed by the governor, the state Senate
and the House.
Hackley said he’ll stay until a new president is named or until June 30, whichever comes first.
He hasn’t accepted a new job yet, but he said he wants a position
that allows him to focus on the issues he’s most passionate about —
educational opportunity, racial and gender equity, and ethics.
He now holds several high-profile volunteer posts. He’s national
chairperson of Character Counts!, a nonprofit organization that tries
to develop characteristics such as trustworthiness and respect in young
people, and he was recently named to the National Commission on Civic
“At this stage of my life, I don’t want to just have a job to earn
a living,” he said. While some people have speculated he’d join the
Clinton administration, he said he’s never pursued that.
Said Spangler, a friend of Hackley’s: “Sometimes good people don’t
win. And sometimes good people fail. Really good people persist and
eventually carry out what they want to achieve. That’s what I predict
for Vic Hackley.”
COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com