New Jersey college president: ‘Whenever you can, practice grace’

Profiles in Power highlights public officials nationwide who are improving their communities through their dedication, enthusiasm, creativity, and experience.

This week’s profile is Michael McDonough, president of Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey.

Public career highlights and education: I have a bachelor’s degree from Reading University in England. Then I came to the States in 1981, where I obtained a master’s degree in English from Oklahoma State and a Ph.D. in English from Penn State.

My career has always been in higher education. I was a faculty member for 20 years, then I became a dean of liberal arts, then a provost and 10 years ago, I came to Raritan Valley as the president, so my career is about 40 years long now.

What I like best about public service: It has to be working with the students, right? I do think that education is one way for people to improve their lives. It is such a joy to watch students graduate and to see their families celebrate their accomplishments. We know talent and intelligence are handed out equally to people, but opportunity is not, and I enjoy being part of a world that makes opportunity equal for all.

The best advice I have received: My mom and dad were not educated but gave me two pieces of advice. My mom’s advice was to always, whenever you can, practice grace.  And the second piece of advice came from dad, which was equally simple, and he said, if you are offered opportunities, say yes.

People might be interested to know that: I love music, especially music from the 1960s and the 1970s. I still love going to concerts. I think everyone knows that as an undergraduate I wanted to be an actor, but I was terrible at it, so I never realized that dream but became a teacher, which I think is close to performing.

One thing I wish more people knew about higher education: There are a couple of things that people really need to know about community colleges. It is accessible, it is affordable, it is a quality first-class, world-class education and it is not just academics, but it is career training, whatever stage you are in your life we are open to you.

Government Market News Staff

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