Wolde-ab Isaac. Credit/ KURT MILLER: PE Wolde-ab Isaac. Credit/ KURT MILLER: PE

Riverside City College names new president

A local board has awarded the task of leading Riverside City College to an East African-born man with an extensive educational background and a plan for boosting college participation in Inland Southern California.

Wolde-Ab Isaac, 70, of Riverside was named RCC’s 11th president late Tuesday by the Riverside Community College District board of trustees in a 5-0 vote. Isaac had presided over the nearly century-old, culturally diverse campus of more than 18,000 students on an interim basis since August 2013.

California’s seventh-oldest community college, RCC will celebrate its 100th birthday in March 2016. Isaac will make $205,000 a year.

“Interim is never ever guaranteed a position,” board President Virginia Blumenthal said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

But during a nationwide search for a college president, she said Isaac stood out.

“He’s a living example of what education can do,” Blumenthal said. “And that’s what he wants to bring to our community.”


Isaac has helped develop programs aimed at accelerating student achievement by prioritizing classes for those pursuing specific fields of study.

“We have one of the lowest college-going rates in the nation, and we are trying to increase that,” Blumenthal said.

According to the California Postsecondary Education Commission’s website, about 35 percent of Riverside County residents go to college, and about 29 percent of San Bernardino County residents do. That compares with a statewide average of more than 40 percent and a rate of 48 percent in Orange County.

“He is a terrific leader,” Blumenthal said of Isaac. “He knows how to build a consensus.”

Michael L. Burke, district chancellor, said in a statement: “I have the utmost trust in him.”

One of seven children, Isaac was born in the East African country of Eritrea in a family living in poverty. His father completed only the third grade.

“And my mother never attended school at all,” he said.

However, encouraged by his parents, Isaac excelled in school.

“I was always getting prizes,” Isaac said. He became the first member of his family to attend college.

By The Press Enterprise

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