Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New president gets first taste of Hillsborough Community College

Hillsborough Community College president Kenneth Atwater, left, chats with Bobby Bowden on Thursday as he begins a tour of the college\u2019s facilities. He also has plans to meet with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, and local United Way and business leaders.


Hillsborough Community College president Kenneth Atwater, left, chats with Bobby Bowden on Thursday as he begins a tour of the college\u2019s facilities. He also has plans to meet with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, and local United Way and business leaders.

TAMPA — For Kenneth Atwater, it was what first days ought to be: excitement coupled with a chance to learn new things, meet new people and make a good impression.

Yes, there was a bit of nervousness, but that diminished with every greeting.

"I love the first day because everybody brings you gifts," said the 58-year-old Atwater, who began his tenure as Hillsborough Community College's seventh president Thursday.

Sure enough, a bouquet of yellow roses and a gift box with Tampa Bay Rays and Buccaneers T-shirts and hats greeted him when he entered his eighth-floor office on Davis Islands.

"Like is not the word," he said, settling into a sofa as a technician set up his new iPad. "I love it."

In May, the college's board of trustees chose Atwater from among 38 candidates to succeed Gwen Stephenson, who led the college for more than 12 years. He impressed the board with his energy, enthusiasm and desire to engage with the wider community.

He has been a leader at community colleges for more than 25 years, most recently as president of Arizona's South Mountain Community College.

But on Thursday, Atwater was much like a student on the first day of school.

Between remembering the location of his office and memorizing computer passwords and parking lot security codes, he had a lot of ground to cover.

"I just learned how to use the phone," he said, his easy laughter filling the room. "I'm in a learning mode probably for the next six months."

Atwater has broad goals for his tenure as president of a college with more than 45,000 students and five campuses.

He hopes to deepen HCC's relationship with K-12 schools, other colleges and universities, and the Tampa business community to produce a work force trained to meet local needs. If the need exists, he said, the college might explore offering baccalaureate degrees.

This month, Atwater's plans include visiting the college's various campuses and meeting with the head of the local United Way chapter. He is set to meet with chamber of commerce leaders and Mayor Pam Iorio in August.

Thursday, Atwater toured the new student services building on HCC's Ybor City campus, meeting dozens of staff members and students. He tried to put them at ease with jokes and laughs.

"I'm directionally challenged. … If I'm lost, could you help me?" he asked one employee.

"Let me be one of your customers," he told another at the college bookstore, selecting a red polo shirt after some deliberation.

"I want to be out and about and involved," he said to deans, teachers and student representatives at a meeting of the Ybor City campus council. "Invite me out … I want to learn the Tampa community, all of it. I need your help in doing so. … What can we do to make Hillsborough better?"

He shook hands with a security guard. He patted students on the back.

"I want to see you at graduation," he told them.

He said he is confident his experiences at community colleges in Tennessee, Maryland, Michigan and Arizona have prepared him well for his new job.

"I am excited to be here and truly looking forward to the journey," he said. "Hopefully, this will be my last stop."

Contact Nandini Jayakrishna at or (813) 226-3383.

Kenneth Atwater

Age: 58

Last position: President of South Mountain Community College, Arizona

Education: Bachelor's degrees in speech, theater, and sociology; master's in guidance and counseling, Murray State University, Kentucky; doctorate in higher education, Southern Illinois University

New president gets first taste of Hillsborough Community College 07/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 1, 2010 11:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84


    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General


    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest


    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.