New: Community college chancellor announces retirement

Zelema Harris

Zelema Harris

The St. Louis Community College Board of Trustees on Jan. 13 accepted the retirement of Chancellor Zelema Harris, who has served as the college’s chief executive officer since 2007.

Harris’ retirement becomes effective June 30, the end of her current contract.

“We are deeply saddened by Dr. Harris’ decision,” STLCC Board of Trustees Chairwoman Denise Chachere stated in a news release. “She has led St. Louis Community College through major challenges during a period of extraordinary growth for our institution, and has done an outstanding job in her leadership role. She brought us through a successful reaccreditation process with the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation, a successful reaffirmation process with the prestigious League for Innovation, and a successful strengthening of our strategic and financial positions in a time of great economic hardship.

Indeed, the positive moves and interactions of Dr. Harris with the college and the community, as well as at the state and national levels, have sustained and even improved our reputation as a premier place of higher education.”

Harris in the release called her STLCC tenure “quite rewarding.”

“I am grateful for having the privilege to serve as chancellor of one of the premier community colleges in the nation,” she stated.

Harris has more than 30 years of experience in higher education administration, according to the release. She previously served as president of Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and president of Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley in Kansas City.

Harris has led the multi-campus system consisting of the Florissant Valley, Forest Park, Meramec and Wildwood campuses since August 2007. STLCC is the largest community college system in Missouri and is second only in size to the University of Missouri system. STLCC’s budget exceeds $200 million; the college employs more than 3,700.

She has received many awards, including the American Association of Community College’s Leadership Award and CEO of the Year from the American Association of Community College Trustees. In 2010, Harris received the Lifetime Achiever in Education Award from the St. Louis American Foundation. She also has received the YWCA Leader of Distinction Award, and was selected by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of the Most Influential St. Louisans, Most Influential Women in Business and Most Influential Minorities in Business.

During her tenure, STLCC has received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis, the Greater St. Louis Top 50 Award from the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, the St. Louis American Foundation’s Corporate Diversity Award, and the 2010 Heroes of the Planet Sustainable Educator Award from the St. Louis Business Journal.

Locally, Harris serves on the boards of directors for the United Way of Greater St. Louis, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, the St. Louis Science Center, The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden. She is a member of the Missouri Women’s Forum, The Links, Inc.-Gateway Chapter, and the United Way’s Charmaine Chapman Society, the Women’s Leadership Giving Initiative and the Tocqueville Society.

Harris earned her bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Tex., and her master’s and doctorate of education degrees from the University of Kansas.