One month into his new job as the president of Glendale Community College, David Viar is staring down the challenge of keeping pace with rising student demand amid years of austerity measures that only recently have stabilized as California's budget outlook improves.
The new superintendent/president comes to Glendale by way of Sacramento, where for eight years he was president of American River College. He has taken the helm of a college that has withstood crippling budget cuts and a rapid turnover among top leaders over the last several years.
But Viar is more excited about his new role now than when he first began, citing his new colleagues and the city of Glendale itself.
"What I have discovered is very positive," he said. "I have been impressed with the very strong connection this college has with the community."
Prior to American River College, Viar headed the Community College League of California for 15 years and comes with several more years of experience leading the national Assn. of Community College Trustees in Washington, D.C.
"I feel like we were able to get the most eligible superintendent/president for the level of college we have in the entire state," said Trustee President Ann Ransford.
Challenges still loom for Viar in Glendale, where thousands of students were on wait lists for classes last year.
In order to offer more summer and winter sessions in the coming school year, 140 faculty members teaching those short sessions recently agreed to a 35% pay cut to save the college $340,000 per year.
"All of our community colleges are challenged by the fact that there is such a significant need for education.... But there hasn't been enough money to do what we know is necessary to help people achieve their informed educational goals," Viar said.
Before earning a law degree, Viar was in the Army from 1968 to 1970 and worked as a teletype operator in Vietnam.
Viar is still getting to know Glendale, where his grown son has settled and where he and his wife had considered retiring before he applied for the job.
Among his goals is this one: to serve as many students as possible, from those taking classes to learn English, returning for general life skills or ones preparing to transfer to a four-year university.
Viar said he will serve the college "for as long as they have me."
For Ransford, the challenge for Viar is to bring stability to a college that has seen three leaders serve on an interim basis — or in shorter-than-expected roles — over the last several years.
"We don't just want a honeymoon with Dr. Viar," Ransford said. "We want a partnership with Dr. Viar for the long term."
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.