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Longest serving Jefferson president, Dr. Ron Horvath dies

Dr. Ron Horvath portraitUpdate: Dr. Horvath's memorial service will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 1:00 p.m. It will be held in the Horvath Auditorium on the Southwest Campus.

Dr. Ronald J. Horvath, who took the reins of the fledgling Jefferson Community College at age 36 and led it for 20 years, doubling its size, died Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in Louisville.

Horvath, president from 1975-1995, led expansion of the Downtown Campus and development of the Southwest Campus in Valley Station, which opened in 1980. He also oversaw creation of the Carrollton Campus in 1990.

When he arrived at Jefferson, the college was only 7-years-old, had one small campus and enrollment of 5,861. He would nearly double enrollment, while setting the stage for further growth. Today the college, known as Jefferson Community and Technical College, has six campuses and enrolls about 13,000 students a year.

Jefferson opened its doors in 1968 in the former Presbyterian Seminary Building at First and Broadway. On his first day at Jefferson, he told faculty and staff the work you have done in the past to bring JCC from a dream to a reality is but a prologue to the future.

During Horvath s tenure, Jefferson was recognized by the University of Texas Community college Leadership Program as one of the top colleges in the nation. In a companion study, Horvath was named as one of the top 50 community college presidents in the U.S.

Much of Jefferson s success today can be traced to initiatives begun in the Horvath era, said Dr. Diane Calhoun-French, Jefferson s provost and vice president of academic and student affairs.

Dr. Pat Lake, president emeritus of Henderson Community College, served as dean of the Southwest Campus during Horvath s presidency. He described Horvath as grace under pressure and a storm in a bottle.

In 2012, the college named the auditorium at the Southwest Campus in his honor.

At the ceremony, Horvath said of his tenure, I learned a long time ago that 50 percent of the people you work with will be smarter than you. Then someone told me that 98 percent of the people were smarter than me, and I took that to heart. ... I was lucky enough to have talented faculty and staff.

In 1995 after Horvath s retirement, the Jefferson Board of Directors created the Horvath Award for Distinguished Service. It is rarely awarded and is reserved as the college s highest honor. Horvath was the first recipient. In May, Horvath himself made the award during the college s graduation ceremony to Dr. Tony Newberry, recently retired president of the college and the second longest service chief executive.