By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Keegan, a 1978 graduate and former graduate intern at Skagit, said he is happy at Peninsula College but couldn’t pass up the “unique opportunity” to return to where he started.
“I had a number of incredible experiences at Skagit Valley and grew personally through those experiences,” Keegan said in a telephone interview Sunday.
Keegan, 52, said Skagit Valley College motivated him to become a community college professional.
“The opportunity to lead the college that set me on my educational and career paths is both exciting and inspiring,” he said.
The Skagit Valley College Board of Trustees announced the finalists on Friday — the same day Keegan led the dedication ceremony for the $36 million, 62,950-square-foot Maier Hall at Peninsula College.
A crowd of about 100 attended the grand opening for the new building that will house art, math, liberal arts and music programs and performances.
“I love Peninsula College,” Keegan said.
“It’s a wonderful college, and the community has been so supportive of the college and me. We have a great thing going at the college.”
Keegan became president Peninsula College in 2001.
He will discuss the school’s 50th anniversary at today’s Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce noon luncheon at the Red Lion Hotel, 221 N. Lincoln St.
Tickets are $13 and can be purchased from the meeting room cashier.
The other finalists for the Skagit Valley College presidency are Spokane Community College President Joseph Dunlap, Riverland Community College (Austin, Minn.) Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer John Langell III and Northland Community and Technical College (East Grand Forks, Minn.) President Anne Temte.
“We have an outstanding group of applicants, said Debra Lisser, chairwoman of the Skagit Valley College Board of Trustees, in a statement.
“Each of the candidates we have selected to interview would bring enormous strengths to the position, and they all meet the elements of the profile we adopted in July.”
Interviews and public forums will take place between Oct. 5 and Oct. 12. Skagit Valley wants to replace retiring President Gary Tollefson in early November.
Skagit Valley College has an enrollment of 23,000, compared with about 8,100 at Peninsula.
Skagit’s campuses in Mount Vernon and Oak Harbor — and education centers in Clinton and Friday Harbor — serve Skagit, Island and San Juan counties.
Peninsula College serves Clallam and Jefferson counties with education centers at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend and in downtown Forks.
Keegan returned to Skagit Valley in 1983 as a graduate intern and men’s soccer coach while he was pursuing his master’s degree at Western Washington University.
“I have incredibly special place in my heart for Skagit Valley College,” he said.
Keegan was Skagit’s leading scorer and captain of the Cardinals’ Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges soccer championship in 1977.
After playing on scholarship for nationally-ranked University of California, Santa Barbara, Keegan led Skagit Valley soccer to another NWAACC title as head coach in 1983.
As president, Keegan was a driving force behind the fundraising effort to build Peninsula College’s state-of-the-art, $1.4 million artificial turf field at Wally Sigmar Athletic Complex, named after the late Peninsula College president who also was a soccer coach and mentor to Keegan.
Peninsula’s men’s team won the college’s first NWAACC soccer title last season and are undefeated so far this year.
Last September, Keegan was one of five finalists for the presidency of Tallahassee Community College in Florida. He withdrew his application last October.
Earlier that year, he was a finalist but not chosen for the presidency of St. Petersburg College in Florida.
Keegan on Sunday said he has no other applications pending with schools besides Skagit.
Keegan earns about $165,000 per year at Peninsula College.
The college had 8,128 students and 57 full-time faculty members in the 2010-2011 school year.
Julie McCullough, chair of the Peninsula College Board of Trustees, said: “Dr. Keegan is a remarkably effective leader and an exceptionally successful community college president.
“Our hope is that he will stay at Peninsula College, but we understand why this has special meaning for him.
“We, of course, wholeheartedly support him in this decision to pursue this opportunity,” McCullough said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.