Local officials and politicians joined more than 500 students, professors and other dignitaries as Montgomery College inaugurated Jermaine F. Williams as its 11th president Wednesday in a ceremony at The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.
“Together we can change society in the ways that matter most: reducing poverty, increasing economic and social mobility, and producing students who are ambitious and deeply engaged in society,” Williams, 43, told the crowd during the afternoon ceremony.
Williams was chosen Feb. 28 to be the next president of Montgomery College. He offers nearly 20 years of experience working in higher educational institutions and has a history of working with multi-campus institutions known for their diversity, according to Montgomery College.
Williams has previously served as the president of SUNY Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York. He succeeded DeRionne P. Pollard, the previous president of Montgomery College who left in August 2021 after serving for 11 years. Pollard currently serves as president of Nevada State College.
Montgomery College is a public community college that serves over 50,000 students annually through its credit and non-credit programs, according to its official website. It has three main campuses located in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, and has workplace development and continuing education centers at various locations throughout the county.
The theme of the inauguration celebration was “Our College, Our Community, Our Future,” which symbolized “transformation and the college’s shared roles in being the change we seek in our communities,” according to the community college.
Williams acknowledged the role and impact of the community college’s previous leadership. “Our work now is to build on the successes we have inherited and identify new ones. I know I can rely on the college’s faculty and staff to bring their talents and creativity to this venture. Montgomery College needs each of youto extend our impact even further,” he said.
The ceremony also included the presentation of honorary degrees to five candidates: Charlene Dukes, the college’s interim president emerita and president emerita of Prince George’s Community College; J. Stephen McAuliffe III, principal at Miles & Stockbridge and chair of the Montgomery College Foundation board of directors; Mirna “Lupi” Quinteros-Grady, president and CEO of Latin American Youth Center, which has a location in Silver Spring; and philanthropists Clifford and Deborah White. Clifford White was honored as the 2017 Montgomery County Philanthropist of the Year and serves on the board of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, where he helped found the Neighbors In Need Montgomery Fund.
Speakers at the inauguration included U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Kensington and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park, who represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.
‘I’m proud to say that we stand today with a true equity avenger. Thank you for your leadership,” Van Hollen said, addressing Williams. “You are committed to making the promise of education more real for more Marylanders, regardless of ethnicity, race, ZIP code, [and] religion and that mission could not be more important today.”
Raskin described Williams as “a proven leader, and a proven educator and a proven teacher.”
“You’ve been in Massachusetts, you’ve been in New York, you’ve been in Pennsylvania, and now finally you’ve made it to Montgomery County,” Raskin said. “And we greet you at the dawn of the most promising career in Montgomery County, the best educated county in the U.S., a place where truth and science still live.”
The celebration also included remarks by speakers including James S. Klauber, president of Hagerstown Community College; Jon W. Pointer, president of Montgomery College Alumni Association, and Deepica Premaratne, student trustee from college’s Board of Trustees.
Maggie G. Williams spoke of her husband’s long-held commitment to community colleges. “The dedication he gives us, his family, is similar to the dedication he has shown throughout his career,” she said. ““When Jermaine and I started dating 14 years ago, still graduate students, we were talking about our professional goals. Jermaine shared that he plans to dedicate his career to community colleges, and that his long-term goal was to become a community college president.”
In his speech, Williams emphasized the need to use data-driven analysis to further the community college’s goal of equity and increase access to education as well as contribute to better completion and post-completion outcomes for students.
“I ask that we hold each other accountable. And I challenge you — from whatever role you are in — to be the change you want to see. I will bring my exhilaration for this role. And I will meet you there with a personal passion for social justice and an ambitious vision of achievement as, together, we build our college, our community, our future,” he said.