As Lewis-Clark State College President Tony Fernandez prepares to wind down and step away from the college to enjoy his retirement, he first must wind up.
The 15th president of LCSC will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the third game Tuesday of the Avista NAIA World Series.
It’ll be one of his last formal acts as the leader of the institution and a kickoff for the rest of the activities to come during the baseball showdown, which started Friday.
After more than a decade with LCSC, Fernandez’s last day in his office will be June 1, although he will continue in several capacities until his official retirement June 16.
He’s led the college during a time when record enrollment numbers continue to outdo the numbers from each year prior.
When he started in 2003 as the provost and vice president of academic affairs, Fernandez said, graduation numbers were “certainly under 500 students.”
“This year, we were just under 1,000 students, so that’s been a tremendous change in just sheer numbers,” he said.
Fernandez served as the interim president for one year following the departure of Dene Thomas, officially taking on the position full-time in March 2011.
As he reflected on his time as president, Fernandez shied away from patting his own back. Instead, he credited many of LCSC’s accomplishments to faculty and staff members.
He’s most proud of how the quality and the quantity of programs at LCSC have increased, he said.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Fernandez said. “Our nurses are recruited from all over. … We are known for a lot of things, and not just baseball. And I love baseball.”
The athletic programs at LCSC have been successful, not only in how athletes perform, but in their academics.
Out of the around 200 student athletes, Fernandez said over 100 each year typically have a 3.0 or better GPA.
“The athletics are very successful at Lewis-Clark State College, but that’s not why we are here. We are here to educate students, but it reflects the quality of what’s going on in the classrooms, because of the quality of our student athletes,” he said. “Their grade-point average on average in the athletics is higher than the general population, so I think we really do have student athletes here.”
He pointed to other programs such as the natural sciences division that has done an excellent job placing students in medical schools; thriving teacher education and social work programs; and rankings that place LCSC among the top institutions in the nation for things like online adult education.
His favorite thing about being president is the way LCSC’s team opens the doors for students who span the gamut from first-generation non-traditional students, to those entering straight out of high school. The diversity is what makes the college unique, he said.
“We’ve got career-technical education very well integrated into the college, and the educational programs we have, along with what you would consider a typical liberal arts education with some very high quality professional programs,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll find many institutions that have that kind of mix and pull it off.”
Fernandez has witnessed other sweeping changes as the college has continued to grow. Over the past 15 years, the Activity Center was completed and renovations took place at Thomas Jefferson Hall, Spalding Hall and the Silverthorne Theater. The school also has expanded outside the confines of its campus, with Clearwater Hall in downtown Lewiston and College Place on its western edge.
And more is on the horizon. The college is set to construct a career-technical center near the new Lewiston High School in the Orchards, providing even more opportunities for students.
“I think it’s a strong college that’s gotten even stronger,” Fernandez said.
He’ll remain in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley following his retirement. Recently, he and his wife, Diane, purchased a home in the Orchards as they prepare to move out of the President’s Home, located at the intersection of Sixth Street and Eighth Avenue.
Fernandez will continue to serve on the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees and the Regence BlueShield of Idaho Board of Directors. Many of the committees and boards he currently sits on will be taken over by the incoming president, Cynthia Pemberton, who most recently served as vice president for academic affairs at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo.
Fernandez has been in weekly discussions with Pemberton to let her know what “irons the college has in the fire,” but once she takes over, he’ll remain at arm’s length, unless he is called upon.
“I think she needs to establish her own presence and her own style,” Fernandez said.
He believes Pemberton will be a good fit for LCSC.
“She’s very excited about the position, and she is learning everything that she can while she’s waiting to come to Lewiston and join the team,” he said. “She’s asking the right questions, and she has a very level head on her shoulders.”
Pemberton’s first day will be July 1.
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