Retirement Message

DATE: Tuesday, August 23, 2022

President Royal announces retirement

Dear HCC students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors,

I am writing to share with you that I have decided to retire in my seventh year as president of Holyoke Community College, making this my last academic year. My last day will be July 14, 2023. It has been one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life to serve as the fourth president of this great institution, and now it is time to prepare for the next chapter of my life. 

One of the greatest responsibilities of any leader is to know when and why to lead an institution and also when and why it is time to leave it. I have spent a considerable amount of time in reflection about this life change, and my 'why' is simple and straightforward: I am seeking expansion and personal growth in the form of new learnings and experiences, and an opportunity to pause and enjoy the present moments. 

I still remember the moment in 2016 when our board chair, Bob Gilbert, called to inform me that the board had chosen me as the next president to lead HCC. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I knew in my heart that Holyoke Community College was where I was meant to be. Indeed, I chose HCC as much as HCC chose me. I have been passionate about education since childhood, particularly as a tool for intellectual and spiritual growth, but also as a means to improving one's social and economic mobility. Education has been and remains a very personal endeavor to me and I believe there is no greater approach to transformation than through learning. I have witnessed this at HCC in our classrooms with extraordinary faculty; with staff as they guide students along their path; in students' reflections from service learning projects, honors inductions, when they receive an HCC Foundation scholarship or a letter of acceptance to the four-year institution of their choosing, at Nursing Pinning ceremonies, and in tears of joy at Commencement. Cultivating these transformative experiences for students is what makes our institution truly remarkable.

I am humbled by and proud of the work we have accomplished together. Among our many milestones over the past several years is our collaborative work to develop HCC's first strategic plan. And now as we start a new academic year, the second iteration of that plan represents a more focused vision and priorities that set our direction for the near future. As a community of learners and educators, we now also have a revised model of shared governance that supports greater inclusion and is representative of HCC today.

We are advancing equity across the institution, recognizing that our collective work is a testament to our institutional growth and a reflection of our deep commitment to our students. We are ensuring that every student who comes to HCC can achieve their dreams, in whatever way they define academic success. HCC has acknowledged that racial equity, as well as other forms of equity, is structural and addressing systemic oppression requires an awareness of and a willingness to rectify the shortcomings in ourselves and our approach to the work, in order to embrace a future where our BIPOC students can achieve the same level of success as our white students. 

We have boldly invested in supporting students' basic needs because we know that academic success requires compassionate support of the whole learner. We created the President's Student Emergency Fund in 2017 to provide financial support to students with unanticipated emergencies that could derail their educational journey. We have subsequently invested in:

  • Transportation by providing bus passes to every student who needs one.
  • Food Insecurity by creating the Homestead Market and becoming the first public institution in Massachusetts to accept federal SNAP benefits.
  • Housing Insecurity by serving as a community connector to help students access available housing resources, including a partnership with the Holyoke Housing Authority.
  • Childcare by launching the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Program to provide HCC parents with short-term care for their children while they attend a class or access services on campus.
  • Mental Health by partnering with the Center for Human Development (CHD) to make in-person and virtual mental health services available to HCC students.

We have also faced the most significant pandemic of our lifetime. After absorbing the gravity of this international crisis, what I remember most clearly about March 2020 was the incredible sense of community that emerged in order to keep our students moving forward. Faculty, staff, and students adapted to a world that is now forever changed. We helped our community remain safe during the pandemic, and we became a stronger, more compassionate institution on the other side of this crisis.

While we are a regional community college, we continue to pay homage to our roots in Holyoke. We opened the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute on Race Street, which offers credit and non-credit programming while serving as a community hub and space for events and functions in downtown Holyoke. And on our main campus, we established and expanded El Centro, a center dedicated to meeting the needs of our Latinx students and fostering a greater sense of belonging.

We celebrated 75 years as the oldest two-year college in Massachusetts and we marked the HCC Foundation's 50th anniversary. Both milestones enabled us to reflect on the building blocks of achievement that led to our present success, and to appreciate our beginnings as an institution built by a small staff and faculty teaching at elite schools who wanted to provide an affordable, high quality education to working class citizens. Still, decades later, and with these same principles, we continue to adapt to the changing needs of our students and community.

Milestones and achievements will continue throughout this coming academic year, and I look forward to experiencing them with you. I remain committed to supporting the important work of Holyoke Community College and to ensuring a smooth transition.

I continue to reflect on the extraordinary resilience of the HCC community. We have seen this resilience time and time again throughout our history. Change, in its many forms, can feel difficult. Yet, in times of change – from our founding and in recent years – HCC has been a beacon of light, hope, and opportunity for this community. This is what matters, and it is what I am certain will continue for years to come. I have learned so much at Holyoke Community College, and I have immense gratitude to each of you for allowing me to serve as your president.

With respect and appreciation,