Austin Community College District (ACC) Chancellor, Dr. Richard M. Rhodes, will retire in August 2023 after 12 years of service to the college and the Central Texas community. He is the longest-serving Chancellor in the college’s 50-year history. Since joining ACC as President/CEO in September 2011, Dr. Rhodes has cultivated a culture of innovation, collaboration, and transformation to put the college at the forefront of the future of higher education.
Dr. Rhodes informed the ACC Board of Trustees Tuesday, January 17, and shared the announcement with the college community Wednesday, January 18.
“It has been the greatest pleasure to serve as Chancellor of Austin Community College,” says Rhodes. “Coming to ACC and serving this community are among my top personal achievements. As I prepare to step down, I find myself reflecting on our accomplishments. I want to thank our amazing Riverbat community that made my time here more engaging and meaningful than I could have imagined. The commitment of our faculty and staff to our mission is inspiring. It’s why we have seen such tremendous growth at ACC. Together, along with our many community partners, we cultivated a culture of upward mobility. We believe college is for everyone, and I am confident ACC will continue to grow and thrive.”
“It’s clear — Dr. Rhodes’ contributions to this college and community are immeasurable. It’s difficult to find someone who cares more about students than Richard," says Dr. Barbara Mink, ACC Board of Trustees chair said. "His passion for innovation and collaboration has truly been transformative. Through his leadership, ACC has grown into one of the leading colleges in the nation — recognized for its progress in closing equity gaps, increasing completion rates, establishing advanced learning environments, and more. We are grateful for his leadership, his dedication, and his service to this college. He will be missed.”
Under his leadership, ACC has been recognized in the region, state, and nation for its innovation.
ACC passed two general obligation bonds totaling approximately $1 billion and created new learning spaces for the community, growing to 11 campuses, including the redevelopment of the former Highland Mall into an advanced and state-of-the-art college campus with three business incubators (Bioscience, Fashion, Manufacturing), performing arts spaces, art galleries, simulation centers, a student-run restaurant, and more.
The college established new ways of teaching and learning through collaborative learning spaces like the ACCelerator — a nationally-recognized learning emporium that delivers personalized learning and just-in-time intervention.
ACC evolved as a community college — developing high-demand bachelor's degree programs to provide students a more affordable pathway to an in-demand skill set in the region.
The college expanded opportunities to all high school students in the service area to earn college credit while still attending high school at little to no cost through dual credit, Early College High Schools, Career Academies, and P-Techs.
Student persistence and success rates climbed through the launch of Guided Pathways which provide students easy-to-follow guides that ensure they take the right class at the right time and stay on track to completion.
ACC’s graduation rates ranked as the fastest-growing in the state, and the college earned multiple Star Awards from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
The college made a push toward free college through its Career Scholars program which covers the cost of tuition and fees at ACC — up to $5,000 over three years.
Through Dr. Rhodes’ leadership, ACC redefined what collaboration looks like in higher education. The college established partnerships with companies such as Tesla, Samsung, Baylor Scott & White, Toyota, NXP, Apple, Army Futures Command, University Federal Credit Union, St. David’s Healthcare, Ascension Seton, and more that help build a skilled workforce and connect students with real-world experience.
ACC made significant strides to close equity gaps in higher education. The college was awarded the prestigious Seal of Excelencia from Excelencia in Education, named one of the first 10Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campuses in the nation, recognized as an Achieving the Dream leader college, and appointed as a member of the League for Innovation in the Community College.
“Richard has had an amazing impact on not only his local college, making ACC one of the finest community colleges in America, but he has also been hugely impactful on the national agenda for community colleges,” says Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. “His help in setting the vision for community colleges nationally as chair of the American Association of Community Colleges is inspiring and will have a lasting legacy for years to come.”
A native of Alamogordo, New Mexico, Dr. Rhodes received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Master of Arts in Educational Management and Development from New Mexico State University. He earned his doctorate through the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, receiving its Distinguished Graduate Award in 2001.
His professional associations include Chair of the American Association of Community Colleges; Board Member of the Texas Workforce Investment Council; and Past Chair of the Texas Association of Community Colleges. Dr. Rhodes also is a Board Member of the Trellis Foundation, Chair of the Trellis Company, Vice Chair for the Capital Area Council of Boy Scouts, and Board Member of the League for Innovation.
Dr. Rhodes is active in the community, serving as Past Chair of the Board for American YouthWorks as well as serving on the boards of local Chambers of Commerce and Co-Chair of Communities in Schools Central Texas Leadership Circle, the Austin Area Research Organization, and United Way.
Prior to joining ACC, Dr. Rhodes served as President of El Paso Community College for 10 years and as Vice President of Business Services at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah, for seven years.
Dr. Rhodes’ last day as Chancellor of Austin Community College District will be August 31, 2023. He plans to spend more time with his wife, children, and grandchildren.
The college will begin a nationwide search for his successor immediately. A new chancellor will be appointed by the Board of Trustees. More details will be available on the college’s website.