BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — North Shore Community College President Wayne Burton announced yesterday his plan to retire this summer after 13 years.
“I am deeply grateful to everyone at NSCC for a wonderful experience with an extraordinary group of dedicated people,” Burton said in an email to staff.
Many may know Burton, 68, as an academic and business leader on the North Shore, an advocate for community colleges and those with intellectual disabilities, and a believer in sustainability. His purpose as a community college president was to “level the playing field for all people consistent with their hopes and dreams,” he said.
Burton has overseen a major expansion of North Shore Community College, which has campuses in Danvers, Lynn and Beverly, not only in terms of buildings but of standards and enrollment.
“I will credit myself with putting a really fantastic team together,” Burton said in an interview.
Burton plans to work on the community college’s budget and initiatives such as the expansion of the Lynn campus and create a strategic plan for the college’s next president, before leaving his $212,600 post on July 31.
“In his 13 years as president of North Shore Community College, President Burton has positively impacted the lives of tens of thousands of NSCC students and made a tremendous contribution to the workforce development and economic vitality of the North Shore region,” said Richard Yagjian, chairman of the college’s board.
“He’s been a great college president,” said North Shore Chamber of Commerce President Robert Bradford. “I always look at Wayne Burton as a forward thinker, an agent of change, a community activist in the most positive sense.”
Burton oversaw a major expansion in Danvers, with the construction of two buildings, including one named for former longtime state Sen. Fred Berry of Peabody and the state’s first zero-net-energy building, a new health professions and student services building, which opened last year.
There have also been four consecutive years of double-digit enrollment increases, which have resulted in the college’s “highest-ever graduating classes,” according to a college statement.
When he took the reins, Burton said the college had a $1.5 million deficit and a negative fund balance. Few minorities were enrolled. Now, college enrollment is 35 percent minority, and through the NSCC Foundation, its endowment increased to $5.4 million, the second-largest for a community college in the state. He also established an award-winning service learning program and a Public Policy Institute, while absorbing the college programs from Essex Agricultural and Technical High School.
Burton had been somewhat outspoken on Gov. Deval Patrick’s community college reforms, concerned that community colleges would become more like training academies instead of pathways to liberal arts education and more advanced degrees than community colleges offer.
“That’s not why I’m retiring, by the way,” Burton said.
Before being appointed at North Shore Community College in 2000, he was dean of the School of Business at what was then Salem State College from 1993 to 2000. He served as chairman of the Massachusetts Community College Presidents’ Council from 2011 to 2012. He’s also the chairman of the National Community College Consortium on Autism and Intellectual Disabilities and serves on the Massachusetts Special Commission Relative to Autism.
Burton served as a member of Gov. Deval Patrick’s transition team in 2006 and sits on the Governor’s Small Business Roundtable.
“Everybody knows and loves Wayne,” said Charles Desmond, the chairman of the Board of Higher Education and a Danvers resident, who said Burton has made an impact in education on the North Shore, in the state and nationwide.
Desmond said Burton is a decorated Vietnam War veteran, having been a captain in the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, serving in Germany and Vietnam and receiving three Bronze Stars and two Army Commendation medals.
Nationally, Burton served on the U.S. Department of Education’s Committee on Measures of Student Success.
“It will be a great loss for the region,” Desmond said.
In advocating for business, Burton served for two years as chairman of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, bringing a focus of workforce development to the group, and helped found the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development.
“Wayne is very passionate and very highly respected,” Bradford said. “Ever since I’ve known him, which goes back to when he was the dean of the business school at Salem State College, he was always an advocate for the disadvantaged, and he was always an educator.”
Burton received a Master of Business Administration from the University of New Hampshire and a doctorate in higher education leadership from Vanderbilt University. He worked for the University of New Hampshire and was the assistant dean and director of accreditation for the Whittemore School of Business and Economics.
Burton said he plans to be more active in politics in Durham, N.H., where he lives with his wife, Betsey. The couple have two sons, a daughter and two grandchildren.
“I’m resurrecting my political career,” said Burton, who served two terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
He plans to run for a seat in 2014. He’s presently a member of the Strafford Regional Planning Commission in Southern New Hampshire and the Oyster River School District Advisory Budget Committee.
“I want to stay active,” said Burton, who also plans to run for Town Council in Durham.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.