The woman who led Blue Mountain Community College through its $23 million bond campaign announced on Tuesday that she is leaving.
BMCC President Cam Preus leaves Oct. 31 for a new job in Salem. She will lead the Oregon Community College Association, a membership organization that advocates for the state’s 17 community colleges.
“It’s a combination of policy and advocacy and leadership for community colleges and community college students,” Preus said.
Preus, who arrived at BMCC in 2013, said she had originally envisioned retiring in Pendleton. Then came a nomination for the OCCA executive director position.
“It’s a really good fit for my experiences and strengths,” she said.
Leaving her current position isn’t easy, though.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “It has been my honor and privilege to serve as president of BMCC these past five years. Every BMCC employee is dedicated to putting students first, and seeing the work they do each day to support our students achieve their goals is inspiring. I will cherish the many memories I have made at the college and in Eastern Oregon.”
Her years at BMCC brought both highs and lows.
“The passing of the bond was the real high moment,” Preus said. “So many people dedicated so much of their personal time and effort to it. It was exciting to get it up and over the finish line.”
The bond, which passed in 2015, funded workforce development programs, updated technology and renovated deteriorating infrastructure. An earlier $28 million bond failed by a margin of 57 to 43 percent. After that bond went down, Preus held listening sessions all around Umatilla and Morrow counties to find out why more voters didn’t back the bond.
Preus said the worst moment of her presidency was the shooting at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg on Oct. 1, 2015. A 26-year-old man enrolled at UCC shot a professor and eight students in a classroom.
“That really rocked me back,” Preus said. “We had to take a good look at how to keep our students safe. That it could happen so close to home was devastating and disheartening.”
Among her accomplishments was the expansion of career-technical education programs in Morrow County and Hermiston. She represented the college on numerous local, state and national boards and committees, and formed partnerships with numerous organizations and businesses to support college efforts.
Prior to coming to BMCC, Preus was the director of the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, and while in the position, served as the Commissioner of Community Colleges. In that position, she worked for Gov. John Kitzhaber. Now she serves a 34-member board.
“I will have more bosses, but the direction will be more specific as far as advocating for community colleges and their students,” Preus said.
The BMCC Board of Education will tackle the task of filling Preus’ shoes.
“The board now faces a significant challenge to replace one of the most outstanding presidents BMCC has ever known,” said Chairman Chris Brown.
Contact Kathy Aney at email@example.com or 541-966-0810.