BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — North Shore Community College trustees have decided who they think should become the college’s fourth president, as the board unanimously recommended Patricia Gentile to head up one of the oldest and largest of the Bay State’s 15 community colleges.
If approved, Gentile will be leaving her post as dean of advancement, enrollment management and Cape May County Campus for Atlantic Cape Community College. She has worked for the New Jersey community college for the past 14 years. It’s also where she once taught as an adjunct instructor.
The trustee’s unanimous recommendation, which came after an extensive nine-month search, goes on to the state Board of Higher Education for its vote on Oct. 22. If Gentile is approved, she will take over in January from interim President Janice Forsstrom, who has been guiding the community college since the retirement of former president Wayne Burton in July.
“We believe she will be a charismatic, transformational leader who will help elevate NSCC to its next level,” said trustees Chairman Richard Yagjian, in a prepared statement.
“It’s clear that North Shore Community College is a gem,” said Gentile, who added that on a recent visit, she was impressed with the school’s senior staff and their experience. She said she found the Lynn campus warm and welcoming but noted that it was outdated, so one of her first challenges will be to expand it, as the Danvers campus has been over the years.
Like North Shore Community College, Atlantic Cape Community College is a two-year nonprofit publicly supported community college. It serves Atlantic and Cape May counties in New Jersey and has 7,500 credit students. North Shore Community College has about 10,450 credit students, plus 5,300 noncredit students.
At Atlantic Cape, Gentile oversaw noncredit services, workforce development, personal development and contractual programs, including the Health Professions Institute and Casino Career Institute in Atlantic City, the Technology Studies Institute and the Institute for Service Excellence, among other responsibilities, according to the prepared statement.
Like North Shore, which has campuses in Lynn, Beverly and Danvers, Atlantic Cape is spread out, with a main campus and two full-service branches.
Atlantic Cape also serves a diverse student population, given that the casino industry has attracted people from all over the world, with the Atlantic City school district serving students who speak more than 40 languages, Gentile said. She noted that she was able to build good relationships with not just the casino industry, but with small businesses and health care providers who make up the business community in the area of Atlantic Cape.
Gentile said she brings the perspective of someone who worked for nonprofits and in the public sector to the community college world.
Gentile grew up in Philadelphia, in a family with a father who was a first-generation Italian-American, and a mom who was from a family of Irish immigrants. That gave her an appreciation for diversity. She learned that education is not only a way to become self-sufficient but to attain the American dream.
She attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school.
“It was the nuns who told me I was smart enough and had the academics to go to college,” she said.
Gentile worked her way through the University of Pennsylvania and graduated magna cum laude. She began as a teacher in Catholic elementary and secondary schools in Philadelphia. She later went on to work for nonprofits and held executive posts with the Children’s Defense Fund and was CEO of two large mid-Atlantic Girl Scout councils and the Women’s Humane Society in Pennsylvania.
She earned an MBA with a joint major in finance and public policy/management from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctoral degree in educational leadership and higher education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
How did Gentile come to hear about the opening at North Shore Community College? Someone she knew at Atlantic Cape recommended her to the presidential search consultant, Liz Rocklin.
“The community college sector is a fairly small community,” Gentile said. “Word gets around.”
Rocklin works as a senior consultant with R.H. Perry and Associates, which was hired by NSCC to help run the search and make sure the candidates, 72 in all, met the qualifications. The field was narrowed to 13 for interviews, with five finalists selected by a search committee of 16 people. The five finalists went on to two-day interviews with college constituents over the course of more than two weeks last month.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.