NORTH MANKATO — The white linen table cloths were dotted with floral centerpieces, and a kitchen staff member fretted over the exact placement of rows and rows of decadent desserts, including fancy petit fours and profiteroles.
It was a big day on campus at South Central College, and in Heritage Hall, faculty and staff were awaiting the arrival of their president-elect, Annette Parker.
While the reception was quite elegant, it was apparent when Parker arrived and took the podium that she probably would have been just as happy with cheese and crackers. Praised for being grounded and kind — and greeted by a standing ovation — Parker spoke plainly and from the heart.
“I’m just as lucky as you guys are. I’m blessed,” she said.
Parker said she’s always been a teacher at heart, and she wants to be the best “servant leader” to the faculty that she can.
Through her favorite professor in graduate school — who somehow managed to make a research class fun, she said — she learned that helping even just one student at a time makes a difference.
“That’s what I’m here to help you all do,” she said. “... We’re going to work very closely together to do that.”
Student Fartun Musse said she was happy to hear that Parker truly wants to get to know the students.
“She’s really down to earth,” said Musse, who attended all three forums for the presidential candidate semi-finalists. “When she was giving her speech, she really (drew) us to her.”
SCC President Keith Stover said Parker will further the college’s three main program-growth initiatives in agriculture, health care and engineering.
“She’s really into building partnerships,” Stover said. “She’ll be able to take those to the next level.”
Stover and numerous others were impressed with Parker’s experience as executive director of the Kentucky Community & Technical College System’s National Center of Excellence in Advance Automotive Manufacturing — an automotive technical education entity involving community colleges and automotive manufacturers in 14 states. She also has been the KCTC system executive director since 2007.