By Rachel Hanna
LPC president Barry Russell has taken a leave of absence as he fights for his life against cancer.
This past summer, Russell, in an email to the school, announced his brain cancer had spread into other parts of his body. As a result, he said he would be “stepping away” for the fall semester to begin “an aggressive protocol of immunotherapy.”
Roanna Bennie, LPC’s vice-president of academic services, will serve as interim president of the college. Don Miller, Dean of Arts and Humanities, is filling in for Bennie on an interim basis. Miller’s responsibilities are being divided among three other academic deans.
While Russell is hoping to come back for the spring semester, even positive about it in his July email to the school, his diagnosis has caused concern he might not survive.
In a February email, Russell announced he was taking March off to address his health. In the correspondence he revealed that in August 2016 he discovered a tumor on the left frontal lobe of his brain the size of an apricot and growing. After emergency surgery, tests identified it as metastatic melanoma.
He returned to finish the spring 2017 semester and gave a speech at the graduation. He attended the June board of trustees meeting. Then in July, he announced he was taking a leave of absence.
“My hope is that LPC will continue to prosper and grow in efficiency and effectiveness,” Russell wrote to the administrators, faculty and classified professionals. “And that my dedication to rest and building strength allows me to return to work sooner rather than later.”
Bennie wanted to ensure students that “nothing is falling through the cracks” in the wake of Russell’s absence.
Bennie has been at LPC for two years, as vice president of academic services. Before that, she was Vice President of Instruction at Miramar College. Attending college at Montana State University, she received her bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication, along with her master’s in the same field at California State University, Northridge.
“I worry about you all,” she said at a college wide meeting on Aug. 1, “so I care deeply about how we are doing, how students and the administrators are doing as well as every part timer. I really want you to know that’s in my mind. I didn’t come here with an agenda except to serve and to be a part of the advances of this college.”
Dr. Russell’s many friends at Southwestern College wish him the very best during this difficult time. We are thankful for his service at our college and his dedication to the California Community College system over the years. Our hopes and wishes for a full recovery.