Bronsard Believes Tensions Have Dissipated : New President Seeks Family Spirit at OCC

Times Staff Writer

“Rebuilding of a family spirit” will be among the major goals of Orange Coast College’s new president, Donald R. Bronsard.

Bronsard, 46, formerly president of Concord College in Athens, W. Va., took over on July 1 as the fifth president of the 25,000-student Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.

The new president acknowledged that his call for “rebuilding” referred to tensions the college went through in the past two years. In 1983, a layoff of 100 teachers, most of them at Orange Coast, was ordered by the old board majority of the Coast Community College District.

Anger over those layoffs led to a citizen-faculty move to recall the old board. The recall effort failed, but the opponents succeeded in electing a new board majority in the regular November election in 1983. The new board majority, in turn, has made several major administrative moves, including naming Bronsard last April, after a year-long search, over acting President Art Martinez and scores of other candidates for the permanent presidency of Orange Coast College.


Believes Tensions Gone

Bronsard said in an interview that he thinks most of the tensions stemming from political events in the past two years have already dissipated. He said that students, faculty and their constituent groups are now working together. “I would have been leery of coming otherwise,” he said. “I mean, it really looks good (now).”

A preliminary report of a visiting accreditation team last spring said that Orange Coast College has been “in a state of turmoil” and added: “We find the lack of trust here pervasive and dangerous.”

Bronsard, however, said he thinks the accreditation team’s preliminary report was based on past events rather than on current feelings. He also referred to a rebuttal, written by Orange Coast Academic Senate President Jay Zimmermann, to the preliminary report. Zimmermann accused the report of having “sensed only the negative possibilities of administrative change.”


Bronsard was given a one-year contract when he accepted the Orange Coast position. He said that he fully expects to continue as president beyond the next year and that the board of trustees had told him he was given only a one-year appointment in order to have his new contract next year come in synchronization with the terms of the presidents of the district’s other two institutions, Golden West College and Coastline Community College.

Lists Four Areas

The new president said that after only a week in his new post, it is too early to discuss long-range targets for the college. But he said that “generally speaking, there are four major areas of concern:

“First of all, new-student recruitment. We’re interested in doing our best to accommodate the educational needs of persons in our service region. Secondly, continuing student retention. It is not educationally healthy just to attract new students and then not work to help them to succeed here, not that we haven’t in the past . . . The third target area would be building up our system of supplementary private support for the college--the building up of our (fund-raising) foundation and the building up of our alumni association.

“The fourth one has to do with continuing the rebuilding of a family spirit here that was begun in the recent past by acting President Martinez and his district colleagues and the various professional and other constituencies here on campus.”

Asked why he was attracted to Orange Coast, Bronsard responded: “First and foremost was the professional interest. California’s system of community colleges is justifiably nationally known for its excellence and its spirit of innovation . . . . That’s the professional interest. On the personal side, all the natural attractions of Southern California for an Easterner came into play: the reputation for good weather, the reputation for a healthy economy, the reputation for the accoutrements for the fine and popular arts.”

Bronsard is a native of Meriden, Conn., and holds a doctorate in professional higher education administration from the University of Connecticut. He had been president of Concord College in West Virginia, which has an enrollment of about 3,000 students, since 1983. Before that he had been a vice president at Medaille College in Buffalo, N.Y.

He and his wife, Patricia, and their son, Andrew, 7, have moved into their newly purchased home in the Mesa Verde area of Costa Mesa, Bronsard said.


He said that he likes to be out on campus, “rubbing elbows with everybody,” and learning firsthand about his new college.

“It’s a good school,” he said. “And it’s going to get better.”