The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

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Patrick M. Jones Named New President of Bucks

Courtesy of Bucks County Community College

On Tuesday, March 19, the board of Trustees named Patrick M. Jones as the sixth president of Bucks, with his tenure starting this July.

The decision came on March 19 just two weeks after the last of the three forums were held that allowed students, staff and board members to interact with three finalists the board had picked. Jones was vying for the position against two other candidates; Evon Washington Walters, president of the northwest region of the Community College of Allegheny in Pittsburgh; and John C. Boyd, president of Mayland Community College in western North Carolina.

This concludes a nearly half-year long search spearheaded by the creation of the Presidential Search Committee. The committee hired RH Perry & Associates, who was tasked with finding viable candidates. The firm conducted on-campus visits with faculty and staff and held the forums for the three finalists. Each candidate attended three separate forums: one for faculty and staff, one for administration and faculty leaders, and one for students.

Dr. Jones is coming to Bucks from Penn State Schuylkill, which he joined in Jan. 2019 as the chancellor and a professor of music. During his tenure there, he has overseen the construction of new laboratories, construction of a new learning center, and upgrades to other classrooms and athletic fields. He also helped the school launch multiple new majors such as nursing, cybersecurity and information technology.

Prior to Penn State, Jones had a long career in music education, having been the director of the Setnor School of Music, chair of the music education department at Boston University, head of the music education division at The University of the Arts, and directing the Air National Guard Bands for 12 years. He has also been a judge for multiple Band competitions, including the Music in the Parks competition for Neshaminy High School and Pennsbury High School.

The forum for Mr. Jones was the second of the three forums, taking place on March 4. Compared to the other candidates, he presented a practical and lively personality and was interactive with students. He started his presentation by pointing out his ties to Bucks County. Jones grew up in nearby Montgomery County, but his mother lives in Feasterville. This was unlike the other candidates, who were new to the area. “As a Boy Scout I camped at Ockanickon Camp. This (Bucks County) is like home to me.”

After the short introduction, students were given the chance to ask questions. Jones was first approached by Ethan, a science major, who asked him if he had recognized any areas of improvement the school needs. “We have some financial challenges that we need to address, and certainly we have enrollment challenges all across the country,” Jones said. “There have been some physical plant issues; there’s been some deferred maintenance.”

“The first thing I need to do is get my arms around the community. People need to know that I’m here and that I care.” He mentioned an old friend in Maine who once told him when it came to working with students was “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care. “Together, we will solve the problems; I won’t solve them myself.”

But then, he turned the purpose of the forum on its side by asking the students questions, first asking what Bucks is like. Of the few students present, he got responses about the school being affordable, being a good experience, a nice campus, etc… And he asked that, if he were a student, how would you convince him to go to Bucks? One lady told him that “I used to go to another known school. Everyone was minding their own business there. This school though, is definitely involved.”

Throughout the questions he asked to students, Jones explained that he used a qualitative approach to student’s answers, reiterating what they said to him to make sure he heard them correctly. “I want to make sure what I am saying is accurate,” he said.

He asked students what needs to be fixed at Bucks. One student said that the amount of investment into the Bristol and Perkasie campuses was much less than what is put into Newtown. “I’ve talked to the president of the Epstein Campus before, who said I don’t have enough resources at this campus. I feel that everything is centered around the Newtown campus.”

On Zoom, someone asked Jones how he would get the school to cater to the diverse economy of the county. They gave an example of the Career and Technical Center recently completed at the Epstein Campus to cater to students wanting a vocational degree, not a college degree.

Jones answered that it is a complex question because “I’m not here yet.” “The greatest success is when we do something that is tied directly with the community, industry, partners, and so. One of the things I’ve learned over the year is that it’s a lot harder to just stand something up and do it on your own than it is in partnership with others.”

Jones then laid out his approach, saying the school should sit down with various businesses and organizations in Bucks County, and plug into “wherever those niches are”, as he explained it. He would also use Bucks 2040, which is the county’s ten-year strategic plan, as well as Gov. Josh Shapiro’s ‘Blueprint for Pennsylvania’ that identified some key industries in our area, which Jones said includes Biotech, Pharmaceuticals and Life Science. He explained we need to “take a look at what other opportunities around us that we are not tapping, or we can grow more robust in there (the industries).”

But Jones also pointed out that we can get people to the campuses through other ways. “When I took a look at the community programing, it’s through the roof here; it’s amazing what’s being offered!” He explained that Bucks needs to get people’s attention, because, as he said, “Never in history have more people been vying for your attention.”

Just before the meeting ended, Jones was questioned about transparency. Specifically, he was asked how he would’ve handled the closure of Grupp Hall in the Fall of 2023. The question comes after the resignation of Jones’s predecessor, Dr. Felicia Ganther, who was president for a mere two years before she resigned at the end of 2023.

Although Ganther stated that she resigned due to the recent deaths of three close colleagues and cancer diagnoses of two siblings, many suspect she resigned due to a vote of no confidence from the college’s faculty union. There was also skepticism over her administration’s handling of the Grupp Hall closure, with faculty having described the hall as “a sick building, filled with rattling rafters, a few dead bugs, cold and drafty …” in a Centurion report dating back to April 2019.

Jones said “I don’t know what the reasons where so I’m not going to criticize the current administration. But I can promise you as president I would be as transparent as possible.”

Although the forum was open to all students, not all were able to attend. The Centurion asked some students who weren’t at the forums what they would want to see in a new president.

Camryn Pring, an early education major, would want to see “someone that has organization skills and that prioritizes the school and can also put the students before everyone else.”

And Ryan Press, a radiography major, says “I’d look for someone that’s humble, not scared to make decisions that are important, and just a person that’s approachable.”

When asked what advice to give to a new president, Pring said “To respect the students’ boundaries and wishes as well as listen to suggestions by the students and staff.” Press also said for them to listen to student input. “It’s really important to see what the students feel should change.”