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School Starts — Era Ends at Cuesta

As a new school year starts, an era will be coming to an end at Cuesta College, after college Superintendent/President Dr. Gil Stork announced that he would be retiring, again.

With more than a half century at Cuesta, Dr. Stork announced last Friday that his final day at work would be June 30, 2018. At a news conference, he said this was, “A perfect time for me to try retirement again.”

Hired in 1967 as a Physical Education instructor, he’s been a coach, teacher and administer, and has worked some 54 years at Cuesta He came out of retirement 8-years ago, he said, at the request of then-Board President, Pat Mullen (currently vice president).

He said he had a great feeling, joy, satisfaction and pride at what the college has been able to accomplish during his tenure at the top. “This has been the most rewarding experience of my career,” he said.

When first hired he said it was a great career move but “I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” he joked. He thanked his wife, and their five adult children and 10 grandchildren for their support in his decision to take a second chance and come back.

He joked that Mullen, “Made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” when he was contacted in 2009, about coming back to work and helping steer the school through what was a very trying time — revenues were down due to the Great Recession and Cuesta’s accreditation was in jeopardy.

Board President, Dr. Barbara George said “This is a bittersweet moment for us. Dr. Stork spoke of getting a second chance on life and we’re so extremely grateful that his second chance was spent with us.”

She praised his leadership style and innovations that “are a part of us now. To me your departure is personal as well as professional.” She added that Dr. Stork has “made a lasting impact and leaves a lasting legacy at Cuesta.”

During his tenure, Dr. Stork steered Cuesta through its accreditation problems, making the documentation needed to stay in compliance more a part of what they do. “The change now is that it’s [accreditation] a daily process. It’s a way of life now,” he said.

He also led the effort to get Measure L passed in 2014, a $275 million general obligation bond that will fund new construction and major renovations and upgrades to Cuesta’s two campuses, the first in some 40 years.

And perhaps most importantly to the students, he has overseen the enacting of the “Promise Scholarships,” starting in 2014 with an $8 million donation. The Promise is that every SLO County high school graduate can go to Cuesta fee and tuition free for their freshman year.

“In my 50 years at Cuesta College,” Dr. Stork said, “I have had the privilege to work with a caring and dedicated faculty, staff, and administration and have experienced a great sense of achievement as I have observed them take ownership of what we do and how we do it. Equally important has been the quality and caring exhibited by the Cuesta College Board of Trustees. To be able to work with an elected Board that provides such support for and confidence in me is a gift for any president.”

As for how they will proceed, Dr. George said on Sept. 6 the board would formally accept his retirement papers and discuss next steps — to include a timeline for hiring a permanent replacement, picking a search firm to do the recruiting and how to include the public in the decision-making. Their goal is to have someone hired before Dr. Stork’s last day next June.

– By Neil Farrell

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