Dr. Gene Couch Jr., the president of Virginia Highlands Community College, announced Monday that he will retire, effective June 30, 2019. Couch will remain at the college through the end of the fall semester but transition to a special assignment at the beginning of 2019. Couch, whose community college career has spanned more than 35 years, has presided over the college since the summer of 2014.
“Serving as the president of Virginia Highlands has been the highlight of my career,” said Couch. “As an Abingdon native and someone who grew up in southwest Virginia, this college and this community are special to me and my family. I believe that both have an incredibly bright future and I’m grateful for the encouragement and support that we have enjoyed throughout our time here.”
Couch says that he is proud of the college’s accomplishments that occurred during his tenure, including:
• Expanded workforce training with new offerings like truck driver training, a nursing program
expansion, and the collaboration with Washington County to move the county’s Adult Skills program to the college;
• The college’s 10-year Reaffirmation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Commission on College which included the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan that focused on “soft skills” training;
• Tree Campus USA’s recognition of VHCC, the only Virginia community college to earn the designation; and
• The successful launch of the college’s inaugural major gifts campaign.
“I’m particularly excited about the planning already underway for a new Advanced Technology and Workforce Development Center,” said Couch. “That will be a catalyst for this region when it opens its doors.”
A national search will be conducted by the Virginia Community College System for the next permanent president of VHCC. Additional details of that process and its timeline, as well as the naming of an interim president will be announced in early 2019.
“The Chancellor of the VCCS, Glenn DuBois, has asked me to help lead a special project to help our colleges confront the issues surrounding student poverty, food insecurity, and housing insecurity especially among our students in Virginia’s Rural Horseshoe,” said Couch. “I’m excited for this opportunity and see it as a meaningful way to conclude my VCCS career.”