It's never easy to say goodbye to the people and places you have dedicated a good portion of your personal and professional life to — a sentiment that San Jacinto College provosts Dr. William "Bill" Raffetto (North Campus) and Dr. Brenda Jones (South Campus) are experiencing upon their recent retirements.
Combined, they have contributed more than 55 years of leadership, counsel, and expertise. As members of the College's Strategic Leadership Team, Raffetto and Jones' efforts helped pass the College's 2015 bond referendum, allocating $425 million for building renovations, technology upgrades, and new building construction. Their leadership also led to the College receiving the 2017 Aspen Institute Rising Star Award and its third consecutive nomination as a top 10 finalist for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
Raffetto began his career at San Jacinto College in 1984 as the South Campus dean of student services. Widely known for his great storytelling, he has also been recognized for building high-functioning teams due to his knack for growing and coaching others on their individual strengths.
"Overall, I hope that people will remember me as the administrator who had the courage to tell people what they needed to know rather than what they wanted to hear," he said.
Within his 36 years at San Jacinto College, Raffetto also served as vice president of student services, vice president of enrollment services, and provost of the North Campus. He has also published in various professional academic publications and represented the College among local and state professional organizations, including serving as president of the Texas Association of Community College Deans of Students, board member of the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation and the Junior College Personnel Association of Texas, president of the South Belt Rotary Club, and executive board member of the North Channel Area Chamber of Commerce.
In 2015, Raffetto created the Read Across North Campus program to inspire students to enjoy reading and provide access to books of interests. Coinciding with Read Across America/Dr. Seuss Day, the annual book drive provides free employee-donated books of many genres, including children's books, to current students. To date, North Campus faculty and staff have donated more than 7,000 books.
Upon reflecting on his years of service, Raffetto says it all comes down to the people.
"I am very grateful to have worked with very smart people who are dedicated to student success and to improving the lives of others," he said. "I feel my greatest successes have been the teams I helped build in the student services divisions. Hiring good people, having the confidence in them to let them do their job, and assisting them with their professional development has been one of the most rewarding things in my administrative career."
His retirement plans include enjoying his two grandsons and attending their soccer games and practices. He also plans to spend a lot of time reading, which has always been a big part of his life.
Raffetto holds a Doctor of Education and Master of Science from Texas A&M University-Commerce (formerly East Texas State University) and a Bachelor of Science from Duquesne University.
Dr. Brenda Jones is also leaving her mark on the College's legacy of leadership. Jones began working at the College in 2001 as an adjunct professor in the Central Campus business management department then later served as the program coordinator for corporate education in the continuing and professional development division. She later served as dean of business and technology, interim vice president of learning, and in 2012 was named the South Campus provost after a national search.
"Being a part of the remarkable leadership of this phenomenal organization has been one of the greatest achievements of my career," said Jones. "We have some of the very best, forward-thinking Board of Trustees and Strategic Leadership Team members leading the College. This innovative group of leaders, along with our faculty, staff, and administrators, truly understand the importance of putting our students and their success at the heart of everything we do."
Throughout Jones' 19 years at the College, collaboration with industry, community, and educational partners remained a priority. She was instrumental in creating Pearland ISD's Robert Turner College and Career High School and Pasadena ISD's Dr. Kirk Lewis Career and Technical High School and its newest early college high school facility located on the College's South Campus. Jones also championed the development of the College's biomedical clinical equipment technician program and led the team that secured the College's partnership with Baylor University to be part of the Baylor Bound transfer program. She also continues to be anactive member in numerous community organizations, including the Clear Lake City Chamber of Commerce, Pearland Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Pearland Economic Leadership Council and Capella University Community College Advisory Council.
Jones notes that some of her greatest successes are the students and employees she has mentored over the years. Mentorship has always been at the core of Jones' leadership DNA, paying it forward with each one of her mentees, celebrating all of their victories no matter how big or small.
"One of the most rewarding aspects of my job has been personally serving as a mentor to some of the brightest students and employees at San Jacinto College," she said. "The students have continued their education at some of the top universities in the nation, and the employees have advanced to some of the top leadership positions in the College. It's been a great joy to have been a part of their success, and I consider all of them legacies, not only for me but for our College, who will benefit from their knowledge and leadership for years to come."
Jones has been recognized for her innovative and visionary leadership at the state, national, and international levels with awards that include the Association of Educational Office Personnel Boss of the Year Award, Chair Academy Idahlynn Karre International Exemplary Leader Award for global leadership in higher education, San Jacinto College Excellence Award for administration, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society Shirley B. Gordon Award for administrative institutional support; PTK Alumni of Distinction, Phi Beta Lambda Businessperson of the Year, and Outstanding Women in Texas Government - Outstanding Leadership Award.
Prior to COVID-19, Jones and her husband had plans to celebrate their retirements by continuing to travel the world. While those plans have been put on hold, she says that they have settled for a few domestic trips. Like always, they look forward to the new adventures and what this next chapter holds.
Jones holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University and a Master of Science in Educational Administration and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Both Raffetto and Jones say that leadership, while rewarding, is not for the faint of heart, and each had some parting advice for aspiring, new, and veteran leaders.
"Be willing to compromise on processes, but never compromise your principles and never lose sight of the mission of your organization," said Raffetto.
"Know when to lead and when to follow," said Jones. "Acknowledge when you are wrong, and know that you don't always have to be right. Never get so big that you forget to be humble. Be sincere, be kind, and take time to show others that you appreciate them and the work they do."
San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer added that Raffetto and Jones' lasting impact will help continue to move the College forward.
"Bill and Brenda have been profoundly instrumental in establishing San Jacinto College as a leader in higher education," said Hellyer. "Throughout their tenures, they have built new, innovative College programs, committed to steadfast student success, and created a culture of transformational and servant leadership. Their impact has led to the College being recognized as a national top 10 community college and paved the way for continued excellence in academic transfer and workforce training. We are grateful for everything they have done for the College and wish them both a wonderful, happy retirement."