Allan Hancock College was on a list of the top five places in the country where Kevin Walthers wanted to work.
The Texas native had heard about the school’s stellar reputation, and over the years he actually had visited the Santa Maria Valley on several occasions to catch up with friends, who also thought highly of the community college.
Walthers remembered the cool ocean breeze and — even more noticeable — the welcoming, friendly people he had met.
On a recent afternoon while sitting in the college’s office of the president, Walthers expressed deep gratitude for having been able to circle back to Hancock’s campus earlier this year when he was selected to lead it.
“The whole culture here is nice,” Walthers told Noozhawk. “It’s a place I wanted to be. I’m only the fifth president. That’s good.”
Walthers, who most recently served as president of Las Positas College in Livermore, has officially been at the Hancock helm since July 8, after the Board of Trustees sang his praises and finalized his contract in June.
Since then, it’s been a flurry of meet-and-greet with faculty, staff and students, and familiarization with the 93-year-old institution’s four campuses in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Solvang and at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Remembering a person’s name upon a second meeting is considered a small victory as Walthers prepares for the arrival of 11,500 students for fall classes, which begin Aug. 19.
“I’m excited for the students to come back,” he said. “There’s so much energy.”
Walthers set his sights on Santa Maria after a career that began in Texas as a high school government and economics teacher. His career journey took him to Utah in 1996 and then West Virginia for two years before arriving on the West Coast in the summer of 2011 to lead Las Positas in the East Bay Area.
He said he and his wife, Shannon, have always considered themselves “Westerners” because she grew up in Colorado and he just outside Dallas before moving from state to state while his father was in the Air Force.
Walthers said he’s just another first-generation college student who decided to pursue a career in education.
His résumé includes vice chancellor for administration for the West Virginia Community and Technical College System and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, as well as executive roles with the Utah State Board of Regents and the College of Eastern Utah.
Having been a community college student himself, Walthers said he wants to ensure students are aware that they have access to any career they desire.
“It’s kind of a pay it forward kind of thing,” he said, noting his grandmother’s emphasis on the importance of getting an education. “It’s a fun job. We teach them how to learn using specific skills. It’s invigorating to be a part of that.”
Walthers said he hopes to focus attention on strategic planning and student success. What time and attention is left will go toward sharing hobbies with his 10-year-old son, Trey, at their Orcutt home.
The new president’s orientation appears to be finishing up as first-year students begin arriving for an orientation of their own this week.