Thomas Baynum said he was blessed and humbled by Saturday’s installation ceremony, officially making him the 14th president of Black Hawk College, with campuses in Moline and Kewanee, Ill.

“I count myself as blessed to be part of it,” he said during ceremonies at the i wireless Center, Moline. “I began by almost tearing up. But it is fun to do these things.”

The college’s board of trustees voted to hire Baynum last fall, and began his new duties in early January. He replaced interim President Gene Gardner. Baynum had served as president of Coastal Bend College in Beeville, Texas.

He called Black Hawk College “a part of the bigger landscape of education. We are, in fact, a significant player.” Baynum said 32 percent of all high school students in the district attended Black Hawk in recent times.

One of the primary themes being expressed by speakers, including Baynum, is linking the past with the present. “We have to pause to honor what went on before us,” Baynum said.

Moline Community College started in 1946 in the former Moline High School building on 16th Street. The institution was renamed Black Hawk in 1961 and ground was broken on its present site in 1967.

Keynote speaker was Margaret Lee, president of Oakton Community College with campuses in Des Plaines and Skokie, Ill.

She also talked about the rich history in Illinois, in which Joliet was the first junior college in the United States and Black Hawk was the first junior college district in the state.

“We now have 1,200 community colleges in the United States,” she said. “There has never been a time of more challenges.”

Lee said community colleges not only serve as an important tool for students in their efforts to earn their college degree at four-year institutions, but these campuses also are valuable for first generation American immigrants and displaced workers in retraining.

“Community colleges are the engines of economic workforce development,” she said.

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