Butler Community College president Jackie Vietti – whom many credit with reshaping the school to fit the needs of 21st-century students during her 17-year tenure – announced Tuesday she will retire at year’s end.
“Not only are the faculty and staff shell-shocked with the announcement, but so am I,” said Vietti, who told nearly 500 Butler faculty and staff of her retirement plans Tuesday afternoon. “It was a really difficult decision to make because Butler is my family and I will miss them sorely.”
She is Butler’s fourth president and the first woman to lead the school. Her retirement is effective Dec. 31.
“If I’ve done my job right, life will go on at Butler without missing a beat. We will continue to be an innovative college.”
Butler’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday evening appointed the college’s vice president of academics, Karla Fisher, to serve as interim president following Vietti’s retirement.
Since her inauguration in 1995, colleagues say, Vietti has championed profound changes for the school. Following widespread local layoffs starting in 2008, Butler’s enrollment jumped nearly 13 percent at the same time that decreased state funding forced her to cut the school’s budget by $1.3 million. She also has led the school through a $20 million expansion, including a new $3.3 million student union at its Andover campus in 2008 and the El Dorado campus’ $4.2 million Hubbard Welcome Center, which opened in 2010.
Most recently, Butler opened its $12 million BG Products Veterans Sports Complex – a collaborative project launched during economic uncertainty – under Vietti’s leadership.
The entire time, she remained committed to innovations designed to heighten students’ access to technology while keeping commuting costs low, college spokesman Ryan Entz said Tuesday night.
“She’s just very innovative in her approach to learning styles and to meeting the needs of today’s students – whether that is a nontraditional student or a traditional student right out of high school,” he said.
The changes Vietti brought to Butler were driven, in part, by personal experience, she told The Eagle in 2010. A military wife and mother, she joined the staff of Parsons-based Labette Community College in 1979 as coordinator of instruction programs after answering a newspaper advertisement. Later, she earned a master’s degree in 1982 and a doctorate from Kansas State University in 1991.
While studying for her Ph.D. in adult and occupational education, Vietti commuted 800 miles a week from Parsons to Kansas State – an experience that helped drive Butler to add online course for its students, she said in 2010.
Butler, the state’s second-largest community college, offers nearly 90 degrees and 30 professional certification programs. Its virtual learning program is the school’s third largest “campus,” after its El Dorado-based main campus and its Andover location, which is one of five satellite centers.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jackie Vietti,” said recently retired Wichita State University president Donald Beggs. “She was very much up-to-date on technology and tried to work with businesses and what their expectations were.”
He added that Vietti has been committed to providing accessible education and housing options to students.
“She’s been very focused on the students and to the professional development of the community,” he said.
The school plans to select a national search firm by December and begin seeking Vietti’s successor early next year
“The faculty, staff and administrators are incredibly grateful for her mentorship and her leadership,” said Fisher, who left a decade-long career in financial services and technology before joining Butler in 2010. She previously worked in the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Community College Student Engagement and was an administrator for Salt Lake Community College.
“I’m excited to help make this transition smooth for the college, but at the same time, I will miss Dr. Vietti.”