Former Mission College Head Is Named President at Pierce : Education: Trustees forgo formation of a costly search committee in the appointment of Lowell Erickson. The selection comes days after the early retirement of Dan Means.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lowell Erickson, the former president of Mission College, has been named the new leader of Pierce College, less than one week after its president resigned to take an early retirement.

Six trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District unanimously voted Tuesday to forgo the formation of a costly search committee to review candidates--a process that usually takes several months.

Chancellor Donald Phelps decided that the district could no longer afford the luxury of a long selection process. He asked the trustees to appoint Erickson.

"It was an economic decision more than anything," Phelps said. "The average search would have cost $10,000 with the background check and all. And that does not include the time of employees who would have been on the committee.

"Lowell had already gone through a selection process when he became president of Mission College."

Trustee Lindsay Conner abstained because the selection process had been eliminated.

"I think Lowell's record on the whole is a good one," Conner said, "and I have every reason to believe he will be a good president. But for many years we have typically been using selection committees made up of faculty, students and members of the community, and I think it is a good thing.

"I think you can increase a president's chances of success if the individual is selected by a broadly based group, rather than one person."

Trustees are not bound to any specific selection process leading up to their vote to appoint a new college president, Trustee Wallace Knox said.

"At times like these, colleges need strong hands on the helm now," Knox said.

Dan Means announced May 8 that he will retire as president of the Woodland Hills campus on June 28.

Erickson was first employed by the district in 1973 as its director of public information. In 1982, he became president of Mission College, founded in 1975 in San Fernando.

"I think undoubtedly my greatest accomplishment there was the funding and planning of a permanent home for the college," said Erickson, who lives in Granada Hills. Mission's new home in Sylmar is scheduled to be ready this summer.

In 1989, Erickson took a leave from Mission to enter the doctoral program in education at UCLA. He returned to the district last year as acting vice chancellor of education services and worked on the district's master plan.

Erickson takes the reins at Pierce at a troubled time. Last year, drastic cuts in the school's agriculture program drew strong protests from students and members of the community. Local homeowners worry that the school's scenic, 250-acre farm will eventually be sold to developers.

Erickson said he had "no ready-made solutions" to the college's money troubles, but he said he would not be in favor of selling any portion of the school's 450-acre campus.

He will formally take the post, which pays $88,857 a year, July 1. In a related move, the trustees appointed Jack Fujimoto president of Mission College. Fujimoto has been acting president since 1989 when Erickson took his leave.

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