College’s leader prepares to call it a career
As new president takes the reins, Nunley prepares to fade into the background
There’s the long overdue trip to the beach she and her husband plan to take. There’s the reading and power walking she wants to catch up on. She’s also thinking about taking history and cooking classes. And her golf game is not quite up to par.
‘‘I’m not entirely sure what my interests are because this job has ... filled my life,” said Nunley, 56, who lives in Rockville. ‘‘Right now, I’m evolving ... and trying to step back and figure out what kinds of interests Charlene Nunley is going to pursue in the future. I think it’ll be kind of fun to do that. For the rest of my life, I want to do things that I’m passionate about.”
Today is Nunley’s last day as the college’s president, but she will work part-time until June 30 — the end of her contract — then help raise money for the college.
But just because Nunley has retired doesn’t mean that she won’t stay active, said her husband, Fred Nunley, 65, who retired last year after 18 years as Prince George’s Community College’s vice president of administration and finance.
‘‘We’re both going to stay active in our field,” he said. ‘‘We’ll get more time to enjoy life. We’re not going to just sit in the house and be homebodies. We’re not going to be in the house much more than we are right now.”
Working from an off-campus office site in Rockville, Charlene Nunley will act as a consultant to Brian K. Johnson, who officially takes over Thursday as president of the college. He will be paid $220,000 a year.
‘‘I want Dr. Johnson to come in here and be able to lead in a manner and style that he thinks is appropriate,” Nunley said. ‘‘He will be his own leader. I need to get out of his way, which is what I fully intend to do. I will be out of his way, watching him lead the college.”
Johnson, 50, emerged from a pool of more than 70 applicants. He was CEO of the Allegheny campus of the Community College of Allegheny County, Pa., and oversaw $1 million in improvements to the campus’ lounge and theater.
Nunley shocked the college last year when she announced her decision to retire. Life has not been easy since then.
‘‘This has been a very busy, busy period,” Nunley said. ‘‘I thought once I announced my retirement that life would get easier. Being a college president in today’s world is really a life commitment. You begin at 7 in the morning and you go until 10 at night, seven days a week.”
Montgomery College has 8,800 full-time and 14,100 part-time students at its three campuses in Rockville, Germantown and Takoma Park-Silver Spring. Nunley oversaw a period of major growth for the college in fundraising, enrollment and new facilities, including expansion at its Takoma Park and Rockville campuses.
The college still faces affordability challenges, Nunley said.
In September, Maryland was among 43 states that received an F in college affordability on a biennial report card issued by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent nonpartisan group in San Jose, Calif.
‘‘We have many more students who apply for scholarships than we are able to award,” Nunley said. ‘‘Many of those students don’t come to college. If they can’t afford to come to a community college, they’re not able to go to college at all.”
In September 2005, Nunley was named to a federal commission on the future of higher education. She, along with 18 other panelists, wants to consider government’s role in higher education and address tuition costs and access to higher education for poor families.
Gene W. Counihan, a Montgomery College trustee, said he was afraid of losing some senior staffers as a result of Nunley’s retirement. But that has not happened, said Sylvia W. Crowder, chairwoman of the college’s board of trustees.
‘‘I would be absolutely shocked if that happened,” Crowder said.
‘‘The only problem she has,” said trustee Owen D. Nichols, ‘‘she worked too hard. I used to tell her that she is the best [college] president I’ve ever known.”
Life without Nunley will be difficult, faculty members said.
‘‘She will be sorely missed,” said Mary Kay Shartle-Galotto, Montgomery College’s executive vice president for academic and student services and Nunley’s colleague for 27 years. ‘‘As a friend and mentor, she has been absolutely outstanding.”
Shartle-Galotto said she was surprised by Nunley’s decision to retire, but added that being president of a college is a ‘‘huge job.” While she didn’t want Nunley to leave, Shartle-Galotto understood why she wanted to spend more time with family.
Mary Ellen Glowacki, Nunley’s assistant for two years, said her boss has been a wonderful person to work for.
‘‘You feel her passion, you feel what she’s excited about,” Glowacki said. ‘‘It’s hard to give her help because she never wants to take advantage of anyone. We’re going to miss her very much.”