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GCC dean in Orleans retiring after leading campus centers in Albion, Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 July 2020 at 8:25 am

Jim Simon will remain Yates town supervisor

Photos by Tom Rivers: Jim Simon is retiring the end of July as dean of the Albion and Medina GCC campus centers.

ALBION – Jim Simon, dean of the Genesee Community College campus centers, is retiring from the college the end of July.

Simon joined GCC in 2005 to teach a history class. He had just retired from the Air Force. Two years later, he was made the dean of the Medina campus. In 2014, he also accepted leading the Albion campus center in addition to Medina.

Simon has taken his passion for history to help coordinate Civil War encampments and the Orleans County Heritage Festival at the campus centers. The sites also host lectures on history that are open to the community. He also is a leader of a committee that annually recognizes Heritage Heroes in Orleans County, people who work to save or preserve important local sites or history.

GCC is feeling financial pressure with the state cutting back on its aid to community colleges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Simon, 60, agreed to take an early retirement incentive, hoping his decision would allow other people to stay at GCC.

He intends to work as a principal of a small Catholic high school in Buffalo this year while continuing as Yates town supervisor.

“I’m not ready to fully retire,” Simon said during an interview at the Albion campus center. “I love education.”

The two campus centers combined have about 250 to 300 students. The dean leads the faculty and staff, leads the hiring and evaluating of classrooms, and oversees student support services, the curriculum and the facilities.

Simon said the position allowed him to meet many local residents and community leaders.

“There are a lot of amazing people here,” Simon said. “I love of the people side of this job, working with my colleagues and the students.”

Jim Simon, pictured inside the Albion campus center on Wednesday, said students like the smaller class sizes and more personal atmosphere in the campus centers. The centers host art exhibits. They also hosted Civil War encampments, Heritage Hero awards programs and other community events. The Albion center has an art studio while the Medina center has labs for science classes.

Simon in 2017 was honored with a Chancellor’s Award for his work as GCC dean. He was instrumental in GCC’s accreditation process with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and was a key member of the first-ever GCC Strategic Plan – Strength Through Collaboration Strategic Plan.

During his tenure, GCC offered the Promise Plus incentive for high school students to take summer classes at GCC without paying tuition. That has allowed local students to get a head start earning college credits without any financial strain.

GCC also has partnerships with many local high schools where students can earn college credit in classes taught at their schools by the local teachers. Some high schoolers also take classes at GCC during the school year.

Union soldiers make a charge on the Confederates during a mock battle at the GCC’s Medina campus center on Maple Ridge Road on April 26, 2015. This was during the final Civil War encampment to honor the 150th anniversary of the pivotal war. GCC hosted encampments for four years.

The campus centers are close by for Orleans County residents and they offer a less intimidating environment with more personalized attention from faculty and staff.

Simon said many former students often stop by to say they started their college path at either the Albion or Medina campus centers. Many went on to earn four-year degrees and secure jobs in their desired profession. The campus centers helped them build their confidence in the classroom and get acclimated to college coursework.

The centers were their busiest in 2009 during the recession. Many people were out of work and enrolled at GCC to work on a degree. The centers peaked then with about 600 students. The campus centers were helpful for many students to learn new skills and rebound in the tough economy.

“There were people who were laid off and who had never been to college,” Simon said. “But 2 to 3 years later, they had a degree. This has been a wonderful mission to be a part of.”

GCC will do some in-person classes this fall and also will be offering classes remotely, with students logging in online at set class times for courses.

Simon expects GCC and the campus centers will see an increase in students due to the economic crisis from Covid-19. He said the college can help students learn new skills and earn needed credits.

He keeps a quote from Robert Frost on display at his office in Medina: “College is a refuge from hasty judgement.”

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