OCCC President Paul Sechrist said he hopes the momentum the college and Oklahoma City have built as they’ve developed recently will lead to new, amazing things in the future. He will retire as OCCC’s leader on July 1.
Sechrist said he’s proud of his own accomplishments within the college but more proud of the students, faculty, the community, and the direction of the school itself. He said he credits the people around him for the success of the college.
“I want to look back in 10 years and go, ‘Wow. Look at that. They’re doing things I didn’t even think about,’” he said.
In spite of cuts to state appropriations, Sechrist said, OCCC and its students are poised for success.
“I’d very much love to have more money than I know what to do with but I always say a financial crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” he said.
He said when times get tough, the people of Oklahoma City become only more innovative, more determined and more focused.
“It’s not easy working through a financial crisis but don’t waste an opportunity to be better.”
Having lived in Oklahoma City since 1972, Sechrist said, the city has never been better than it is now but it took vision. OCCC has such vision, he said.
Sechrist said he hopes he and others who have succeeded on campus and in the community continue investing in, and inspiring, the people of Oklahoma City.
He said OCCC has been fortunate to have an active alumni association and a community of individuals often willing to give their time.
For the incoming students he will not get to meet, Sechrist has a message.
“I think students need to know they’ve chosen to attend one of the finest community colleges in the nation,” he said.
The focus on helping students succeed, and the support and resources students are offered, reaches far beyond that of other institutions, Sechrist said.
“They’re attending a school that cares about their future.”
Wherever students may go later, Sechrist said, he wants them to know OCCC is dedicated to making them ready.
Sechrist said faculty and students have inspired him greatly. This impact he’s felt, he said, is what he considers his real legacy with OCCC.
“The faculty and staff here have accomplished so much in the time that I’ve been president,” he said. “It’s just great to be a part of those accomplishments in the last decade. I think the faculty and staff here are simply the best.”
Sechrist said the outlook for students entering OCCC is so much more promising now than it was 10 years ago. He said it’s because of achievements that have been made by a school that functions as an optimistic community.
He points not only to new facilities like the VPAC theater, film production studios, the FACE building, Capitol Hill Center and the Professional Development Institute, but also to labs and improved collaborative spaces, “and even the trees” to mark OCCC’s progress during his tenure.
There are many achievements he’s proud of but, he said, they are not his alone.
“Just the number of people who are completing degrees — I would describe that as a huge accomplishment that happened under my watch with help from many, many people.”
Sechrist said, during his first commencement speech during his first year with OCCC in 2006, he proudly announced more than 1,000 graduates. At his last commencement speech in May 2015, he said more than 2,000 students received a degree.
“Accomplishing a degree is better than winning the lottery,” he said. “Money can go away but the education you receive with a degree will never be taken from you and will continue to open doors for you for the rest of your life.”
Sechrist said he expects the number of graduates to continue rising and for OCCC to continue toward even more success.
“The current board and incoming president Jerry Steward are great,” he said. “The senior leadership here — the directors, the deans — they’re knowledgeable. They’re skilled and experienced, and the faculty are the best. So I think the college is in good hands and it’s well positioned for the future.
“Maybe I haven’t said it enough to them but I deeply appreciate their dedication to the college and to our students.”
Sechrist said he’s often been told by OCCC faculty they love the school and the work they do.
The students tell him they love the faculty and they see the dedication of those who work on campus.
“I want the faculty to know that during my 10 years as president, they have inspired me,” he said. “They have energized me. They have challenged me to keep up with their good work.”
Sechrist said in his retirement he intends to stay nearby. He intends to keep Oklahoma City as his home and to continue doing some work. He said he may teach a class and do consulting work with colleges who hope to match OCCC’s achievements.
“I want to be a part of the future of this great city, this good community and this amazing college.”
Sechrist said he has already bought his tickets to the OCCC Performing Arts Series on campus and is looking forward to what the school has in store after he’s retired.
He said he may work with OCCC in the future but not right away.
Sechrist said he intends to be absent at least a while and to give the new president every opportunity to lead in his own way.