Seattle Colleges Chancellor Jill Wakefield is retiring after 40 years of vigorous, creative leadership, a legacy that will continue to empower students.
SEATTLE Colleges Chancellor Jill Wakefield does not retire until June 30, so it is hard to imagine all she might accomplish in the next few weeks.
Her celebrated leadership has enabled students, faculty and staff to excel and move ahead at North Seattle College, Seattle Central College, South Seattle College and Seattle Vocational Institute.
The chancellor’s professional path has the trajectory of a piece of Fourth of July fireworks: program assistant in the veterans office at South Seattle College, public information officer, director of development, vice president for institutional advancement, vice president for instruction, college president from 2003 to 2008 and chancellor in 2009.
Wakefield put students first, helped them move to the next step, always pointed toward graduation, despite challenges and barriers in their lives.
She expresses deep gratitude for having an opportunity “to work with a faculty and staff who are so dedicated. There is magic in our classrooms.”
Wakefield is excited she was able to start a wine program at South Seattle College, and a nursing program and health-care training center at Pacific Tower on Beacon Hill. The nearly 50,000 students in Seattle Colleges have that range of choices.
As a result, she is also proud of being able to work with business and industry to meet workforce needs. Prepared students have access to family-wage jobs.
Other evident passions in Wakefield’s career are closing the equity gap, leveling playing fields, easing the transition from high school to college, and providing the education for students to move ahead in the economy, and providing employers with skilled labor.
Wakefield is an innovator at the highest level of her education profession. The colleges she led were the first in the state and among the first in the nation to embrace the applied baccalaureate degree. Building on technical skills, students can complete the general-education requirements of a bachelor’s degree.
Seattle Colleges is the No. 1 source of transfers to the University of Washington, the chancellor points out. This is the working reality of preparing students to keep moving ahead.
Away from campus, Wakefield has served on and led boards, commissions and task forces to help advance learning. She received the 2016 Seattle University Alumni Award for Professional Achievement.
Her gateway retirement begins with teaching a leadership class at a university in Istanbul and walking the legendary Camino trail in Spain.
Then, she says, “I might appear next as a student.” Maybe that wine class or learning to weld. What comes next, Wakefield explains, “is not a new chapter. It’s a new book.”
On behalf of tens of thousands of grateful students, graduates and employers: Well done and congratulations.