For Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College President, Joanne Jaeger Tomblin, her last day on the job was the same as her first day, little fanfare and lots of hard work.
On June 30, 2015 Tomblin retired from her position as president to fully embrace the role of West Virginia First Lady.
After more than three decades, half of that time as president giving her the distinction of the longest serving community college president in the state, she realized that there was not a moment when the work is done and the book can be closed. So after deliberate and strategic consideration for the future of the college, she felt the time was right. “Our board of governors, academic and campus leaders, and community supporters have a firm grasp on what is required to achieve continued success,” Tomblin said.
Tomblin was born in New York City, N.Y., and educated in the Long Island public school system. She attended the University of Hartford in Connecticut following her graduation from high school and subsequently transferred to Marshall University in her junior year to pursue a degree in Journalism. During her senior year she was selected as Marshall University’s “Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year.” While working on her Master’s degree she was given an assignment in the Office of Public Information for the West Virginia Legislature where she was introduced to a young freshman delegate, Earl Ray Tomblin.
Her career began directly out of College as the Traffic Director for WMUL-TV in Huntington, now WPBY. In a very short period of time she was hired as an anchor/reporter for WSAZ-TV in Huntington. Following her engagement to Governor Tomblin, she moved to Logan County where she was hired as the Director of the Logan County Chamber of Commerce. After a few years she joined the staff of Southern as a full time media specialist. She brought with her a focused agenda and plenty of energy to keep engaged in the many different aspects of the college. She held many positions at Southern, from teaching classes, overseeing television and the human resources department to interim dean and then vice president for economic development. Tomblin tackled these positions with her usual enthusiastic drive leading her to fulfill the role of president in 1999.
During her tenure she has successfully met the many challenges of making higher education accessible to everyone and has been the driving force behind projects that have made Southern a leader among community colleges and a vital part of our region. Under her visionary leadership the college has expanded its influence and extended its reach. Incorporating strong academics with career ready skills and experiences allowed Southern to be recognized nationally and globally. In October 2011, Southern was ranked as the 14th best community college in the nation by Washington Monthly. Tomblin also lead a team to achieve a global platform. The Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies, which sets the gold standard for mine training and safety education in the region, became an international training site for mining officials from China’s Shanxi Province.
Tomblin spearheaded many projects including a new Allied Health Facility on the Logan Campus and the Applied Technology Facility on the Williamson Campus. She encouraged the growth of 14 new technology programs, articulations with four year institutions insuring easy transfers for students continuing their education and the development of the COTIGA Leadership Academy. Additional lands and buildings have been secured in Boone and Mingo counties and improvements continue on all campuses to foster better learning environments.
Of her service as president Tomblin has said that the Vision 2020 Major Gifts campaign has been her proudest accomplishment as president. Under Tomblin’s direction this ambitious endowment campaign began in 2006. Although fundraising for community colleges is not typical, Tomblin wanted to be prepared for any economic shift. The goal was to sustain the college and insure that students would have an opportunity to obtain a quality education. Since the inception of the campaign, a grand total of $17 million in fundraising dollars has been raised through community donations, Foundations, and grants. The Foundation has distributed $2.2 in scholarships since 2007 and provided over $700,000 to Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in aid and educational support. Southern employees have donated over $250,000. At a recent luncheon, the employees honored Tomblin with a scholarship in her name noting it to be an appropriate addition to her legacy at Southern.
Tomblin’s leadership has been acknowledged with various awards and recognitions. Her legacy extends beyond the college and educational realm. Throughout her presidency, Tomblin has promoted service and volunteerism. She has served on countless committees and numerous boards, some of which include: Emeritus member Education Alliance; Chair Board of Trustees for Logan Regional Medical Center, board member, Logan County Chamber of Commerce; Co-Chair West Virginia College Completion Task force; member Gear-Up Advisory Board; board member CEDAR of southern West Virginia; board member, West Virginia Workforce Investment Council; board member, West Virginia University Excellence in Women’s Health; board member Greenbrier Valley Theater and board member Clay Center. She is a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Logan and their Chancel Choir.
The employees of Southern recently gathered to share a video expressing their admiration for this woman of great merit. In wishing her well in her role as first lady it was noted that she exemplifies the best of the human spirit and advocates for all this is worthwhile in our area. As she continues to be a role model, her remarkable contributions to the improvement to the quality of life in the area will be recognized for generations to come.