Employees and students bid adieu to Dr. Jessica Howard, vice president for academic affairs Wednesday at a farewell party in Fletcher Administration Center.
Howard will leave the college at the end of the month to become president of the Southeast Campus of Portland Community College in Oregon.
The color green was the theme because Portland is a “very green city” since it rains frequently, project coordinator Robin Collett said.
President Robert Zeigler joked that Howard has practiced hugging trees because of Oregon’s “Go Green” efforts.
Howard said she has “grown up” since her first years as an adjunct professor in the music department at this college in 1998.
She was hired as full-time, tenure-track faculty in 2002 after four years, a month after she was elected to be music and humanities chair.
Howard said when she was hired as full-time faculty, she was so excited she “squealed like a pig.”
She said one of her greatest memories at this college is the six years she served as chair. She describes it as the “best job.”
Howard was appointed to interim executive vice president in 2008 and became executive vice president in the summer of 2009.
The position was changed to vice president of academic affairs by the end of 2009.
Howard said although she has worked at other schools, this college is unique.
“SAC was different. Students were different,” she said. “We do so much that’s right.”
Howard said she hopes to visit this college again after she leaves.
“I will miss San Antonio and I will miss SAC,” she said. “All of you, I just feel like we are a family.”
She will leave this college June 29 and begin her new job in the beginning of August.
Colleagues praised Howard as encouraging, reliable and overly energetic.
Zeigler said Howard’s enthusiasm inspires her co-workers.
“We need more people like that,” Zeigler said. “We’re going to miss that.”
He recalled how Howard was “scared to death” when she was appointed interim executive vice president in 2008.
Still, she quickly learned how to do her job, Zeigler said.
Zeigler said one of his favorite memories is when Howard dressed up as an M&M to spoof rapper Eminem during the annual Halloween concert sponsored by the music faculty to raise money for scholarships.
Zeigler presented a plaque for outstanding service on behalf of the college.
“Portland is lucky to have you,” he said.
Dr. Robert Vela, vice president of student affairs, said both student affairs and academic affairs worked hard together.
Vela said Howard is ready for the job and “she’ll do phenomenal.”
David Mrizek, vice president of college services, said Howard is a “fantastic person to work with” and the room lights up when she enters.
“Not everyone has that,” he said.
He said she makes everyone so comfortable, and when people talk to her, it is like they are talking to their best friend.
“Her energy wears me out,” he said jokingly. “She is five steps ahead of you before you even start to walk.”
VernellWalker, dean of professional and technical education, said she hates to say goodbye, but Howard has been a great inspiration.
Walker said Howard has always been there when deans had a question or needed help.
Dr. Dawn Elmore-McCrary, English professor and outgoing Faculty Senate chair, said Howard will leave a “wonderful legacy” because of her support for students and faculty.
“If I were opening a community college tomorrow, I would hire her,” Elmore-McCrary said.
SLAC lab coordinator Geraldo Guerra presented a star shaped paper on behalf of Staff Council.
“You are our star,” Guerra said.
The fine arts department and joint chairs presented video tributes to Howard.