Recently, long time Santa Fe College Board of Trustees member Colonel Arley W. McRae was awarded the Association of Florida Colleges Florida Trustee of the Year Award. As part of the nomination process, Dr. Sasser wrote a letter on Col. McRae’s behalf, and would like to share with everyone what an amazing asset he is to the Santa Fe College community.
August 29, 2014
Mr. Michael Brawer
Association of Florida Colleges
113 East College Avenue
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Colonel Arley W. McRae is equally at home flying at 30,000 feet, reaching his hands deep in the rich North Florida soil, leading thousands of airmen and women or a college with thousands of student men and women, paying close attention to the pressing societal matters of today, and looking over the horizon to anticipate the pressing educational needs of tomorrow.
These are a few reasons why it is a privilege to recommend Col. McRae for the Association of Florida Colleges Florida Trustee of the Year Award. Col. McRae epitomizes the model trustee. During the past 15 years in serving on the board at Santa Fe College, he has unreservedly and faithfully devoted himself to the greater good of the students, communities and state that we serve.
Leadership is one defining characteristic of Col. McRae. He commanded two major U.S. Air Force bases; is a decorated combat pilot, having received the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Legion of Merit; and developed innovative technologies to maintain the supremacy of American forces in world affairs. Yet for all his travels and accomplishments, he never forgot his roots in a small town in North Florida. He returned there to work in the fields on sweltering summer days collecting food for the hungry, while effectively representing Santa Fe College and all of Florida’s community colleges in the state legislature and to the nation’s leading educational organizations. Just as he demonstrated the highest principles of leadership in serving our country, he continues to do so for education, even when serious health issues have intervened.
Col. McRae’s experience and depth of judgment have provided invaluable service in all areas of our college, elevating the stature of the institution and contributing to Santa Fe being named one of the nation’s top ten community colleges. As an example, Col. McRae was one of the first to develop a vision for internationalizing every aspect of our college and he was a leader in its implementation. Because of his vast exposure to world affairs in the military, where he was credited with being the architect of the SMART BOMB Program, he deeply understands the importance of respect for other cultures and the sheer humanity of avoiding war. Santa Fe’s International Initiative is unique in that we are committed to every student receiving a global education, whether it is study abroad or in a class discussion about the origins of algebra or the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Col. McRae is influential at the national level. He presented to the Association of Community College Trustees about baccalaureate degrees at a time when large numbers of colleges across the country sought guidance in adding such programs and spoke to the League for Innovation in the Community College about how to harmonize the CEO and governing board in the leadership of a college. He has made many visits to the Florida State Capitol, where he concisely and compellingly advocated legislation that resulted in programs and facilities that serve our district and state. He is an engaging speaker whose humility adds emphasis to his sound, thoughtful and visionary proposals.
Locally, Col. McRae is a tireless advocate for education in his home county of Bradford, the least populated and affluent of the two counties in Santa Fe College’s district. During his service on the board, our Andrews Center in Starke, Bradford’s county seat, expanded to three buildings, with a high school dual enrollment program, a computer lab and wider selection of course offerings that enable some students to earn associate degrees without the 30-mile commute to Gainesville. The college also added another Bradford County center in Keystone Heights, which is now two buildings and includes a state-of-the-art science lab. Besides his steadfast support for educational programs, he is if anything a stronger proponent of employment opportunities for young people in job-poor Bradford, as exemplified by his leadership in our college’s recent “Envision Bradford 2023,” a promising community-wide economic initiative.
He is indefatigable. He volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, the Food Pantry and Children’s Table. As a board member with Children’s Table, he assisted in the harvest of hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce donated by local farmers to families in need. So far the organization has collected and distributed over 24 million pounds of food. For his service, the 80-year-old McRae was inducted into Golden Key, an international honor society.
His humanitarian spirit, integrity and dedication to social improvement are well known. He has not missed a step in service to our students and the community, even after suffering a major stroke last year. He continues to be active on our board, where he served recently as chair and has the best attendance record. Throughout his illness, he has not missed a meeting of “Envision Bradford 2023.”
Col. McRae’s contributions are broad and profound; they improve opportunities in the spirit of the community college, and in doing so change the lives of individuals, their communities and the nation in which we live. He truly is an American hero and richly deserving of your most serious consideration for this prestigious award.
Jackson N. Sasser