Richard (Rick) Wright ’62 has used his leadership and team-building skills to forge a successful career in higher education as a professor, administrator and college president. While at SHS Rick played football and ran track for four years and was a member of student council, Biology Club, Whippet Tales staff and Hi-Y. He represented SHS at Buckeye Boys State. He then earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Kent State University and a Ph.D. at Northern Colorado University. Says an alumnus, “Rick credits his outstanding teachers in Shelby for giving him the background and motivation to be successful in college. He credits his Whippet football coaches with demonstrating how to develop teamwork in an organization.”
After holding various college teaching and administrative jobs in Colorado and California, in 1983 Rick began his tenure as president of Bakersfield College. At that time he was the youngest college president in the country. His 14-year term as president has turned out to be the longest in the college’s history. Throughout his administrative career, Rick’s love of teaching showed in that he taught at least one course each semester. During his presidency, Bakersfield College enrollment rose from about 8,700 students to more than 20,000.
After leaving the presidency, Rick accepted the position of chair for the Behavioral and Social Sciences Division. Until his retirement in 2008, he remained as department chair while continuing to teach freshman psychology and neuropsychology to approximately 400 students per semester. Following retirement Rick was honored by the conference of both titles, president emeritus and professor emeritus.
After retiring, Rick moved at the request of the Kern County district chancellor to the KCCD District Office. There he worked for three and a half additional years as interim executive director of Facility Planning and Compliance, overseeing the educational facilities for the district’s nine campuses.
Love for Bakersfield College and the community colleges has kept him actively engaged in the community and collegiate arenas. Rick has served as board member for many organizations including the American Heart Association, Boy Scouts of America, California Community College Commission on Athletics, National Alliance for Manufacturing Productivity, Western States College Accreditation Association, Bakersfield College Foundation and numerous state commissions related to community college funding. Rick and his wife, Laurie, live in Bakersfield.
Nominator: Jim Henkel ‘63