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SRJC honors Agrella as president emeritus

Robert Agrella, the fourth president in the history of Santa Rosa Junior College, is now its first president emeritus.

The honorary title - a vaunted suffix for retired academics - was bestowed Tuesday, the final day of Agrella's nearly 22-year tenure.

“It's just a higher level of recognition,” said Terry Lindley, head of the SRJC board of trustees at the end of the board meeting. “We'll refer to Robert as president emeritus going forward.”

Agrella will be back on campus today to help his successor Frank Chong on his first day on the job, but he indicated he won't linger.

“I think when a president leaves office, he needs to leave office gracefully and stay out of the way of the new president,” Agrella said.

He plans on catching up with his reading, trying to best his wife's golf game, and finding more time for refurbishing old cars like the TR-6 he recently overhauled.

His departure ends the second-longest presidency in school history, one marked by major growth in enrollment and facilities, including a bond-fueled building expansion that transformed the historic campus in Santa Rosa and created a modern alternative in Petaluma.

He also initiated new curricula, including dental hygiene, the only such program in Northern California.

More recently he has steered the college during the state financial crisis, which has eroded funding and forced cuts to classes and personnel.

“He worked really, very hard at building consensus on campus and bringing everyone to the table to understand exactly what was going on,” said Kerry Campbell-Price, a dean, who has worked with Agrella during his entire time at SRJC. “That's not an easy feat.”

Agrella got a standing applause at the end of Tuesday's meeting, a sign of how endeared he became to many faculty and staff.

But it was not always so. By his own admission, he was a more arrogant figure in the years after arriving from Cabrillo College in Aptos where he was also president.

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