Former Westchester Community College President Joseph N. Hankin, whose 42 years leading the school made him at one point the nation’s longest-serving community college president, died Wednesday at age 78.
The Valhalla college announced his death Thursday afternoon.
“Dr. Joe Hankin shepherded Westchester Community College from its infancy through its growth to the stature it enjoys today as one of the nation’s premier community colleges,” said John Nonna, chair of the college’s board of trustees. “His vision continues to guide us and his contributions will never be forgotten.”
Hankin took leadership of the college in 1971 and remained as its president through retirement in 2013. In that time, he oversaw steady expansion efforts that included doubling the size of the Harold L. Drimmer Library and Learning Resource Center. In 2010, the college opened the Gateway Center, a 70,000-square-foot educational resource center. He expanded the college’s online learning options and added a dozen academic programs. Enrollment hovered around 5,800 at the start of his tenure. Last year, the college enrolled just under 14,000.
Many of those students were helped by scholarships from the Westchester Community College Foundation, which Hankin is credited with growing through substantial fundraising efforts. The foundation now distributes $2 million in student scholarships annually. It also helps fund the expansion academic programs and infrastructure improvements.
His successor, Belinda S. Miles, said Hankin “made monumental contributions to the community college field as our institutions became increasingly important pathways to high-quality and affordable higher education, and he did it with an exceptional team of faculty and staff who cared deeply about the college and surrounding community.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said in a statement that Westchester “lost a giant.”
“When Joe took the helm, the college was a small, fenced in campus – and under his leadership it grew into an expansive operation with numerous satellite locations, thousands of enrolled students and home to state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure,” Latimer said. “Joe cared for his students, and their success, with every fiber in his being. It is a legacy that will last for generations to come.”
Hankin is survived by his wife, Carole Hankin, three children and grandchildren. The college said it will host a memorial for Hankin in the spring. Gifts in his memory can be made to the Joseph N. Hankin Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Westchester Community College Foundation, Westchester Community College, 75 Grasslands Road, Valhalla, New York, 10595.