Transitions: Dr. Paul Hutchins

Dr. Paul Hutchins’ last official day at Santa Fe College is April 19. He has served the college for 24 years, most recently as Dean for Educational Centers. He’s “technically retiring” with 30 years in the Florida Retirement System. His next position is a huge shift after a lifetime in Florida: He’s assuming the presidency of Sampson Community College in Clinton, N.C.[Press release]

Paul, 56, graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Education in 1980. He taught in the Florida public school system for a few years at Clay High School in Green Cove Springs and then at Hawthorne Middle/High School. Afterward, he came to Santa Fe College.

“I’ve loved every minute at Santa Fe,” he said. “I have formed so many wonderful friendships with my colleagues. That’s what I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss the people at Santa Fe and being part of the Santa Fe family. It’s been a joy for me.”

One of his fondest memories is working at Santa Fe at the same time his mother, Orie Nelson, ran the college’s cosmetology program. He was the student advisor for industrial technology from 1988 to 1995, and his mother’s program fell under his area.

“I got to recruit and support students for her program and work closely with my mom. How many people get the option to work closely with a parent? At work, she always called me Mr. Hutchins and I called her Mrs. Nelson. At the end of every year, when the cosmetology students were getting ready to graduate, that was always the time when my mom would tell them I was her son. The look on their faces was just priceless.”

His next Santa Fe position was as Director of the Andrews Center in Starke from 1995 to 2002.

“That was another great opportunity. Starke was where I was born and raised. To go back and work with people I’d known all my life was great!”

Since 2002, he’s served as Dean over all the educational centers and has had, he said, “the great honor of assisting the Career and Technical Education programs, working with all the advisors and program directors.”

He credits former SF President Larry Tyree with being the impetus behind his desire to serve as a college president.

“One day back in 1997 or 1998, I’m not sure exactly when it was, he called me into his office to chat. He said, ‘Have you ever thought about working on a doctorate in higher education administration?’ I asked him why, and then he told me that in the next 25 years or so, there was going to be a lot of turnover of presidencies and that there would be a lot of opportunities. He told me he thought I had to ability to be a community college president and to give it some thought. I went home and talked to my wife and family, and they were supportive of me going back for my doctorate.”

Paul completed his doctorate in Higher Education Administration at the University of Florida in 2002. He earlier earned a master’s degree in Adult Education at the University of South Florida.

Paul said in the Florida community college system, it is typical for presidential applicants to have already served as president, so he knew he would have to go out of state. He applied to a school in New York at the recommendation of Anne Kress, who connected him with a consultant working on the search.

“Once you start to apply, consultants see who you are and start contacting you,” he explained.

He applied for a presidency in Wisconsin as well, but didn’t make the interview cut there or in New York. He was a finalist at three schools in North Carolina.

“I was very impressed with Sampson’s faculty and staff who came to the forum to visit with me, and I was equally impressed with the people who came to the community forum,” Paul said of Sampson’s hiring process. “The people and their commitment to students, it reminds me so much of Santa Fe. It was just unbelievable. I was just so impressed with those folks. I said, ‘I sure hope those people call me. I think I would have so much fun working there.’ I was delighted when I got the call.”

Paul and his wife Tina are planning to move the last week of April. Their daughterAutumn, 24, lives in Louisville, attended SF, and now works in digital media. Their son, Drew, 22, is currently a student in our Heating and Air Conditioning program. He plans to remain in Florida.

“May 1st, I hit the ground running and my first graduation is May 19th. I’ll get to give my first presidential address. I’m looking forward to that. That’s going to be fun!”

Paul and Tina will be living only an hour from Wilmington and Wrightsville beach, so in addition to living where there are four seasons, “we don’t have to lose that part of the things we enjoy. We’ll be going to the beach a lot.”

He’ll need those relaxing days at the beach to balance out his work week.

“I am looking forward to developing a good relationship with faculty and staff and the business community, getting involved, and working really hard,” he said. “I’m going to go up there and work harder than I’ve ever worked to try to make that one of the best colleges in North Carolina.

“I want to convey to my Santa Fe colleagues how thankful I am for all that they’ve done to support me and for the joy that they’ve brought into my life. It’s been an honor, a tremendous experience. You’ve enriched me, and made me better, and provided this opportunity.

“I want everyone to know how much I love and appreciate them, and how much I’m going to miss them.”