By Meg Jackson
After seven years as the Vice President for Instruction at Whatcom Community College, Ron Leatherbarrow, 72, is retiring.
“If you asked me what I liked most, it would be working with the faculty and staff,” he said. “I’ll miss working with the professionals here.”
Leatherbarrow said that he has truly loved his job at Whatcom. Above all else, he said he has admired Whatcom’s commitment to student success.
“That’s what I’ll take away with me,” he said, adding that in Whatcom’s mission statement, “we transform people’s lives. I’ll miss being a part of that.”
One of Leatherbarrow’s responsibilities as Vice President for Instruction has been making important decisions regarding the school’s curriculum. A team of faculty members who make up the curriculum committee have meetings where they suggest new ideas for potential courses to be available at Whatcom. These ideas are then presented to Leatherbarrow to approve.
The Vice President for Instruction also plays a large role in hiring new faculty members by conducting evaluations and orientations for them.
“Ron’s nearly 50 years of experience in academia as a teacher and administrator has been invaluable in steering the College’s progress,” said Kathi Hiyane-Brown, Whatcom’s current President.
In addition to these responsibilities, Leatherbarrow teaches an introduction to poetry class at Whatcom one quarter each year. Though he is stepping down from his position as Vice President for Instruction, Leatherbarrow hopes to continue teaching poetry.
“I would like very much to continue to be involved in that work,” he said, adding that he has been teaching poetry since 1965.
Linda Lambert, a former librarian at Whatcom and now a student in Leatherbarrow’s poetry class, said that “Whatcom is a better place because he’s been here.”
She recalled something moving that Leatherbarrow said in one of his classes: “I give people as much credit as I can. That’s my rule for living.”
Leatherbarrow came to Whatcom in 2008 when he was asked to apply for the position during an interim, after the previous vice president left. At the time, Leatherbarrow was working in the same position at Bellevue College.
“I wanted to stay [at Whatcom],” he said. “I really loved the job.”
Leatherbarrow said that he is most eager to have more time to read once he retires. While he also looks forward to having more free time to spend with friends and family, Leatherbarrow is excited to do more for himself as well.
“I’m going to read, see a lot of movies, write poetry, learn piano, sleep late, travel, and become a better cook,” he said.
“We’ve been extremely fortunate to have Ron as Whatcom’s Vice President for Instruction,” Hiyane-Brown said. “He is a tireless advocate for students, faculty and staff, and for the mission of community colleges. I have appreciated his wise counsel and will greatly miss his presence on the college’s leadership cabinet.”
Leatherbarrow grew up in Buffalo, New York. He double-majored in English and American civilization at the University at Buffalo where he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 1965, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a Ph.D. in English language and literature.
After his schooling, Leatherbarrow worked in Minnesota until 1997 when he accepted a job at Bellevue Community College as the Executive Dean of Instructional Services. He was then offered his position at Whatcom in 2008, which he happily accepted.
Leatherbarrow’s piece of advice for the next Vice President for Instruction is this: “to value the people at Whatcom and come into the job knowing that we have excellent people conducting the business of this college.”