Community College

I teach at a regional, commuter university, near Vancouver, BC: It has superb programs in traditional academic disciplines as well as in the trades. It enrols both the unusual and the usual suspects as students. Teaching them is a challenge and a joy, making my work life profoundly meaningful.

A few weeks ago I came across the New York Times obituary of Janet Lieberman, who established LaGuardia Community College in Queens, NY. The obituary made me happy.

Janet E. Lieberman, an educational innovator who made college education more accessible to struggling high school students and recent immigrants as the guiding spirit of LaGuardia Community College in Queens from its inception, died on March 19 in San Francisco. She was 97.

The college, part of the City University of New York, opened in 1971 in Long Island City in a refurbished plant where White Motor Company once made auto parts and Ford Instrument once manufactured range finders for naval weapons during World War II. The building was within wafting range of a Chiclets gum factory next door.

Dr. Lieberman not only helped shape the mission of LaGuardia, a two-year college that now enrolls some 45,000 students from 150 countries; she also established collaborations with other educational institutions to attract high school students who had struggled academically, or who had to hold down jobs while taking classes, or who could not afford a four-year college. …

“Programs that she revolutionized — guiding promising underserved high school students into college, and forging collaborations between colleges to create pathways to transfer — have become models used nationwide,” Gail O. Mellow, LaGuardia’s president, said by email.

In “The Wisdom Trail: In the Footsteps of Remarkable Women” (2009), Dr. Lieberman and Julie Hungar profiled a range of accomplished women, each of whom, they wrote, “has made her mark and gained gratification by making a difference.”

In her case, Dr. Lieberman said in “Unexpected Influence,” “We made a college.”

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