Fitting Tribute to Florestano

April 26, 1994

Tomorrow, Anne Arundel Community College will name its new Allied Health and Public Services Building after outgoing college President Tom Florestano. It is an honor he has earned many times -- not just for his tireless efforts to expand the health program from a single nursing class, but for all he has done to make AACC a thriving school and a real part of the community.

To measure Dr. Florestano's contributions, compare what the college was like when he became president 15 years ago with what it is now. In 1979, AACC was a two-year preparatory school with little respect. For-credit enrollment stood at 7,366 -- and dropping; female members of a discontented staff had just filed a sex discrimination lawsuit, and the college's relationship with the county at large was so feeble it may as well have dropped the word "community" from its name. Today, the school boasts about 12,000 for-credit students, plus thousands of non-credit enrollees. An air of growth and enthusiasm permeates the Arnold campus. And the link to the community is strong, with the campus used for everything from environmental workshops to political forums to cultural events.

Dr. Florestano's expansive personality may not be for everyone, but few can argue that the credit for this change belongs to him. Former County Executive O. James Lighthizer once called him a "shameless promoter" -- and meant it as a complement. Indeed, Dr. Florestano has succeeded in selling AACC to the community and the government while other agencies came up empty-handed. His political savvy was evident when, at the height of the recession, he convinced the Neall administration and the County Council to put up $6.2 million for the health building and $2 million for campus expansion. He and his staff deftly made a case for why new educational facilities were needed to keep up with enrollment. These skills have not gone unnoticed. The Democrats have eyed Dr. Florestano as a potential candidate for elected office, a role in which he probably would do well if he so chose.

Dr. Florestano will retire on June 30. A nationwide search for his replacement has gone on since he announced his departure last fall. That person can count himself or herself fortunate; he or she will inherit a much better college than Tom Florestano did 15 years ago.

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