BRATTLEBORO -- Former Brattleboro Selectboard member Martha O'Connor has been elected the new chairwoman of the Vermont State College Board of Trustees.
O'Connor becomes the first new head of the board in eight years after Gary Moore of Bradford announced that he will be stepping down after serving on the Board of Trustees for 23 years. Vermont State College Chancellor Tim Donovan announced this week that he will be retiring and earlier this year Vermont Technical College President Phil Conroy retired.
"It's going to be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to it," O'Connor said. "There are a lot of projects on our plate."
O'Connor also takes over as Vermont Technical College and Community College of Vermont are preparing to open in downtown Brattleboro and the college system faces financial pressures from rising costs and stagnant support from the Legislature.
"Martha O'Connor is eminently qualified to chair the VSC Board. I have no doubt she will guide the VSC forward in these trying financial times," said Moore, who will step down as chairman in July, but remain on the board through March 2015. "She is the right person at the right time and I look forward to working with her in my remaining seven months on the board."
The Vermont State College system is made up CCV, Castleton State College, Johnson State College, Lyndon State College and Vermont Technical College. The five colleges serve more than 12,000 students at more than 25 locations across Vermont.
O'Connor is serving her third six-year term on the VSC board. She was first appointed by Gov. Howard Dean in 1999, and reappointed by Gov. Jim Douglas in 2005 and by Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2011. She has chaired the Board's Finance and Facilities Committee since 2006 and worked to bring the CCV and VTC to the Brooks House when the colleges were searching for a downtown campus.
O'Connor is a University of Vermont graduate. She has served on the Executive Committee of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the UVM Board of Trustees, and was chairwoman of the Vermont Board of Education.
O'Connor said she was not seeking to be chairwoman of the State College Board after Moore announced that he would be leaving, but said she was asked by the rest of the board to take over the position.
She said the state college system is challenged in trying to meet its needs without forcing tuition hikes, and while there is always a need for more funding she said she is realistic about going to the Legislature and expecting a spike in support.
"Everyone is going to the Governor and the Legislature for more money. The state of Vermont has many needs," O'Connor said. "As much as I will push for increasing funding to higher ed., I know we have to prove to the state that we should get that money."
"Martha is a committed public servant and skilled leader. I have great hope that, as chair, she can help turn the funding curve so these colleges can serve Vermont even better," said outgoing Chancellor Donovan. "These colleges are an essential part of Vermont's education fabric. Despite decades of chronic underfunding, they serve the state and its citizens with distinction."
O'Connor was instrumental in bringing CCV and VTC to the Brooks House, and she said it is an exciting time, not only for her as a Windham County resident, but also as a member of the Board of Trustees.
"The new facility is going along beautifully. We expect to be in there for the fall semester," O'Connor said. "It is a big deal for the state, and it is big deal for the town. I'm really excited to take this on. I love it when someone from southern Vermont gets involved like this. Most of these positions are filled by people from northern Vermont, and Chittenden County. It's great to have local people doing things like this."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.