Vice chancellor retires after 44 years with San Jacinto College

Just days before his official retirement from San Jacinto College begins, vice chancellor for administration Dr. Ron Rucker visits the construction site for a new child care facility on the San Jacinto College Central campus. Rucker will remain involved with the College on campus development of new facilities.

Just days before his official retirement from San Jacinto College begins, vice chancellor for administration Dr. Ron Rucker visits the construction site for a new child care facility on the San Jacinto College Central campus. Rucker will remain involved with the College on campus development of new facilities.

For more than four decades, Dr. Ron Rucker has successfully led teams both on and off the court at San Jacinto College. This year marks the vice chancellor’s retirement as he bids farewell to those teams that now consider him part of the San Jac family.

“I have great love for San Jacinto College,” Rucker said. “You can’t help but feel this way if you’ve spent 44 years here.”

Well known for his passion about constructing quality facilities for students, the former basketball coach can be spotted toting around building-design drafts on any given day, fiercely clicking his pen that serves as the soundtrack to his thought process. Many say that he’s the person responsible for getting the College back on track after Hurricane Ike. He’s also no stranger to bond elections, having experienced three over the years that have resulted in major growth of the campuses. However, while so many give Rucker credit for these accomplishments, he insists that all praise be given to those around him.

“They deserve the credit,” he said. “I’ve surrounded myself with some really good people; they make me look good.”

Rucker began his journey with the College in 1965 after accepting a job as assistant basketball coach at the Central campus, the only SJC campus that existed at that time. Fresh out of college, Rucker quickly moved into the head coach position two years later and led the College to its first national championship in 1968, the year Ollie Taylor was honing his skills on Rucker’s team to later become a professional NBA player.

“That was one of the highlights of my career,” Rucker said. “However, I’ve enjoyed every aspect of all my positions, from recruiting students, coaching, and developing student clubs, to facilities and events.”

Throughout the years, Rucker has received opportunities to oversee a variety of crucial roles that are key to running a multi-campus higher education institution. During his years as head coach, Rucker studied at the University of Houston to earn his doctoral degree in education and eventually moved on to work in several administrative positions for the campus, serving as director of guidance for nearly eight years and then dean of student services until 1981, the year he was tapped to become campus president. His mentor and predecessor at the time, Dr. Tom Sewell, would later serve as chancellor for the College in 1983 and promote Rucker to the position of vice chancellor for the district.

Sewell opened many doors in Rucker’s career. The two first met when Rucker was in high school and Sewell was his coach. When Sewell began working for SJC, he encouraged Rucker to do the same after completing his graduate studies at Texas A&M University. Rucker added that Dr. Thomas Spencer, the College’s first president and chancellor, also inspired him as he transitioned from coach to president to vice chancellor. In 1993, Rucker’s title changed to executive vice chancellor; in 1996, he was promoted to his current position as vice chancellor for administration of the SJC district.

No matter how many hats Rucker has worn for the College, those alongside him consider themselves recruited on one prestigious San Jac team – Team Rucker.

“He brings everyone together. You can tell he used to be a coach,” said Ginger Lambert, director of safety and security at SJC, who began her career as a bookkeeper at the Central campus when Rucker was president. “When we have a meeting, our end product is going to be a success.”

Lambert said the secret to Rucker’s accomplishments is his meticulous planning. He was able to pull in areas across the College district and external contractors to work on the restoration of all three-campus facilities within days following Hurricane Ike. Though the storm impacted all 60 of the college’s buildings, 59 of them were ready and able to reopen for classes two weeks after the storm allowing students to complete their academic semester on time.

When he served as administrative leader for the 1999 bond initiative, three Interactive Learning Centers were added to all three campuses, two fine arts centers were built on the North and South campuses, and a music building was built on the Central campus. Such abilities to organize and carry out successful plans makes Rucker a valuable member to numerous regional and national college associations, the Rotary Club of Pasadena, the Deer Park Chambers of Commerce, and the Optimist Club. He has also served as a board member of the San Jacinto YMCA and board chairman of the local American Cancer Society chapter and the Pasadena Chambers of Commerce.

“For 44 years, Ron has been committed to San Jacinto College,” noted Dr. Brenda Lang Hellyer, SJC Chancellor. “He works to win, not for himself, but for the students and employees of San Jacinto College. From his beginnings at the College, he has coached people and projects to victory. I thank him for his tireless efforts and years of dedicated service, and for a winning personality that has been a constant fixture at this college.”

As another Fall semester approaches, don’t expect a newly retired Rucker to be completely absent from the College. While he plans on spending more time traveling with his wife, Cindy, he will remain involved with campus development of new facilities. After all, nearly half a century with the College can be difficult to let go of.

“I think of all the people who have come and gone,” Rucker said. “It’s hard to think of all the years that have just slipped by. It’s truly been an adventurous journey.

People don’t understand how important community colleges are to American education. They give people opportunities they wouldn’t have any other way and strengthen the economy and workforce development. San Jacinto College has been blessed throughout the years with good leadership. Our new chancellor, Dr. Brenda Hellyer, is an example of this, a truly dynamic person. She’s going to do wonders for this College.”