As the regional award recipient, Cole is the sole nominee from the Southern Region for the national Marie Y. Martin Chief Executive Officer award that will be presented at the Annual Awards Gala, Oct. 12.
“To be nominated and selected for an award of this magnitude is, indeed, humbling,” Cole said. “All of the accomplishments at Itawamba Community College are the result of partnerships, collaboration and teamwork. It will be a great pleasure to accept this significant award on behalf of the ICC family."
Representing ICC’s Board of Trustees, chairman Dan Lee Bishop nominated Cole for the award. “Dr. Cole exhibits all of the characteristics and meets all of the criteria for the award,” he said. “He is a visionary servant leader who blends students, faculty, staff, administrators and trustees into the Itawamba Community College family. Dr. Cole creates an environment where innovation and creativity are encouraged and accepted and provides leadership in a student-centered college that is both respected and recognized for its accomplishments.”
Cole became the fourth president of Itawamba Community College in January 1993 after having served for nearly two decades as superintendent of South Panola School District in Batesville.
As a Mississippi school administrator, he has been a leader in both economic development and in raising educational standards for the state. He has served as chair of the Mississippi Community College Presidents’ Association during the passage of significant mid-level funding and Workforce Education Initiatives. ICC in Fulton, Tupelo and Belden provides academic and credit enrollment to more than 14,000 students and workforce training opportunities to more than 50,000 adults annually. Through his visionary leadership, ICC has experienced as much as a 50 percent increase in enrollment and in 2011 at 53.80 percent, the College achieved the highest percentage increase in graduation rates among all 15 two-year institutions in Mississippi. In April, the Aspen Institute selected ICC as one of the top 120 community colleges in the nation. In addition, the College has launched an $8 million fundraising initiative, the largest capital campaign conducted by any community college in the state, to complete the funding for a $15.8 million Health Science Education Center, which is currently under construction at the Tupelo Campus.
Cole earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Mississippi, where he was honored as the Educator Alumnus of the Year in 1993. This spring he was the recipient of the prestigious Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction from Phi Theta Kappa. He is active in civic, church and professional activities including member of the Board of Directors of the Community Development Foundation, Tupelo; United Way of Northeast Mississippi Board of Directors; and board member of the Mississippi Economic Council. Cole is also a member of the Fulton United Methodist Church.
He is married to the former Betty Darby of Batesville, and they have four children and six grandchildren.
Criteria for selection for the ACCT Chief Executive Award include the initiation of innovative programs, the impact of service on technical or special committees on postsecondary education, demonstration of a caring attitude, active membership in postsecondary education associations, publications focusing on postsecondary educational concepts, leadership recognition and additional outstanding characteristics.