Founded in 1967, Valencia College has been fortunate to have been led by excellent presidents. Today, Valencia College is recognized as one of the nation's best community colleges in the nation. Valencia is a national leader in learning-centered education with industry-leading rates of graduation, transfer and job placement, as recognized by the Aspen Institute, Achieving the Dream and other national organizations.
Valencia’s fourth president, Dr. Sandy Shugart, came to Valencia from North Harris College in Houston, Tex., where he had served as president. Prior to that, Dr. Shugart was vice president and chief academic officer of the North Carolina Community College System. He earned his Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
During his tenure at Valencia College, Shugart partnered with Dr. John Hitt, president of the University of Central Florida, to create DirectConnecttoUCF, a guaranteed transfer plan that became one of the most innovative and productive transfer programs in the nation. In 2011, Valencia received the inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, because of its high rates of graduation, transfer, and job placement. Under his leadership, Valencia was selected in 2009 as the inaugural winner of the Leah Meyer Austin Institutional Student Success Leadership Award, presented by the Lumina Foundation for Education and Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count.
During his 21 years at Valencia, the college grew to serve 70,000 students each year and continued its expansion, opening campuses at Lake Nona, Poinciana and a campus in downtown Orlando that is shared with UCF. The college also established a network of Centers for Accelerated Training in Osceola and Orange counties, aimed at providing short-term accelerated skills training for the unemployed and underemployed.
Shugart was named the recipient of the 2017 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education and, in 2015, Washington Monthly named Shugart one of the Ten Most Innovative College Presidents in the country. In addition to his career in education, Shugart is a published poet, songwriter and author of “Leadership in the Crucible of Work: Discovering the Interior Life of an Authentic Leader.”
Valencia College President, 1984–2000
Named Valencia’s third president by the college’s board of trustees, Dr. Paul C. Gianini came to Valencia from Spoon River College in Canton, Ill. Though he had completed his undergraduate studies in South Dakota and worked in Pennsylvania and Illinois, Gianini had earned his doctorate at the University of Florida. At Valencia, Gianini focused on forging alliances and partnerships with local business and industry. During his tenure, the college continued to expand, opening a permanent Osceola campus in Kissimmee in 1997 and the permanent Winter Park Campus in 1998. New programs included a computer-integrated manufacturing program developed in partnership with IBM and Martin Marietta, a collegewide honors program and an ambitious film program on East Campus which quickly won recognition from those in the industry, including Steven Spielberg. Gianini also oversaw the adoption of Valencia’s Learning-Centered Initiative, which established a culture of collaboration and dialogue between faculty and administrators that continues today.
Valencia College President, 1970–1984
Valencia’s second president, Dr. James F. Gollattscheck served from 1970 through 1984. Part of Al Craig’s “dream team” who helped launch the college, Gollattscheck served as Valencia’s chief academic officer. Serving a growing college and a growing community, Gollattscheck oversaw the opening of the West Campus in 1971, the renaming of the college to Valencia Community College, the construction of the East Campus, which opened in 1975, and the first classes held in a shopping center in Osceola County. He also oversaw a concept called the Open Campus, holding classes in many locations throughout the two counties and offering them at nights and on weekends, to accommodate a diverse student population with many needs. During his 14 years as president, the college had grown from 500 students to more than 40,000 credit and non-credit students. In 1984, Dr. Gollattscheck left Valencia to become vice president for information services for the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges in Washington, D.C.
Appointed as Valencia Junior College’s first president, Craig came to Valencia from St. Petersburg Junior College, where he had served as academic vice president and, prior to that, dean of administration. Craig, who had earned his doctorate from Florida State University, brought with him a team of administrators from the Pinellas County school system, including James Gollatscheck, then acting superintendent of Pinellas County Schools. He began work on March 15, 1967, six months before classes began. Craig oversaw the creation of the college catalog, course offerings and registration for classes at a temporary campus at Mid-Florida Tech. By December 1969, the college gained full accreditation and planning had begun for the college’s first campus, now known as the West Campus, on Kirkman Road. With those major hurdles behind him, Dr. Craig stepped down in 1970 to return to the classroom to teach, after 29 years as a public school and college administrator. He accepted a teaching position at nearby Florida Technological University (now University of Central Florida).