February 3, 2023 (Lamar, Colo.) — After an illustrious 40-year community college career, including 13-and-a-half years as a college president, Lamar Community College (LCC) President Dr. Linda Lujan is retiring in February 2023.
While the transition is bittersweet for Lujan, she feels confident passing the baton now because she believes LCC is “poised for growth.”
“In the past six-and-a-half years, we’ve been able to renovate buildings and spaces, erect a new building, get the student housing expanded, add a lot of grants and opportunities, and we’ve been very fortunate to get funds to upgrade classrooms with some of the most modern technologies,” said Lujan.
“We have a great new vice president, new dean, and we’ll soon have an outstanding new president walking in the door. Everything is right for Lamar to grow and thrive, and I feel really good about that.”
Lujan’s thoughtful and generous approach to her retirement is indicative of the way she has spent the last six-and-a-half years – dedicated to rural community colleges and the surrounding communities. Her deep love and connection to the mission of rural community colleges come from a personal place, and she has viewed her career through the lens of stewardship and giving back. As a result, Lujan feels compelled to tell her background story to students, especially late-entry college students who may need to remember what’s possible.
Lujan grew up as a blue-collar kid and the oldest of eight children. She was a good student with aspirations of attending college, but she never really knew how her family would afford it. When Lujan was 17, she got pregnant, dropped out of high school, and married Edward, her husband of 51 years. She and Ed soon had three more children and eventually their fourth child, a bonus baby, five years later.
During those years of raising babies, Lujan worked minimum wage jobs to supplement the family income while Ed worked as a police officer. She admits she was a bit jealous of her friends who had gone to college. When her youngest was old enough to attend daycare at Arapahoe Community College (ACC), she started thinking maybe she should apply.
“I would drive by Arapahoe Community College every day, thinking, maybe someday I’ll go,” said Lujan. “When I finally went to register, I drove into the parking lot and panicked. ‘Am I too old? Are they going to laugh at me?’ I burst into tears and left. Fortunately, I went back and registered for classes, going on to earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree (A.A.S.) in Management Information Systems.”
After completing her A.A.S., Lujan received a job in IT where she made more money than she ever dreamed she could. But that was just the beginning of the advancements in her career.
She eventually received a call from ACC asking if she would return to teach a computer programming class. She enjoyed the part-time adjunct faculty position and was so well-loved by students that the college asked her to return and apply for a full-time teaching position in computer information systems. It was during this time that she decided to move forward with her education.
“There I was, raising a family, working full time, completing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and then the college president said to me one day, ‘you should think about getting that golden ticket–a Ph.D.,’” said Lujan. “I initially told him, ‘no, I’m too old.’ But he planted a seed, and before too long, I was starting my doctorate.”
A Career of Giving Back to the Community College That Gave Her a Start
Lujan earned her Bachelor’s in Human Resource Management from Colorado Christian University, her Master’s in Educational Technology Leadership from The George Washington University, and finally, her golden ticket Ph.D. in Community College Leadership from Colorado State University.
She said she is proud of each degree, all earned while working and raising a family, but the degree that changed her life was the one she earned at ACC as an adult re-entry, first-generation college student. She loves being a role model for other adult learners, who often are worried about going to college.
“I wanted to give something back to the community college that had given me a start, and teaching did that. Once I started teaching, I got engaged, involved, and after 13-and-a-half years of teaching, stepped into an administrative role at Arapahoe,” said Lujan.
Over the next years, Lujan served in several administrative roles in the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), including director of educational technology at ACC and academic dean of the Centers for Business & Technology and Health Sciences at the Community College of Denver. She then spent 11 years in administrative roles in the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona, where she served as academic vice president of South Mountain Community College and president and CEO of Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
Dr. Lujan’s Proudest Legacies
In 2016, Lujan began her career at LCC at a time when the LCC Foundation (LCCF) had recently raised funds to construct a new dorm pod to ease the student housing crunch. She immediately took the mission of increasing student housing access and facilitating technology enhancements and campus beautification projects to heart. While she has accomplished much at LCC during her time as president, Lujan’s proudest legacies are the numerous facilities improvements, technology advancements, and building projects that occurred on her watch.
Instead of retirement gifts, Lujan is suggesting gifts to the President Lujan Student Housing Fund to raise support for the Main Street Housing Project and other student housing needs in the other residence halls. Because the state of Colorado does not assist colleges in building or renovating residence halls, there is a significant and ongoing need to invest in housing for LCC students.
“For a small rural college, the only way we can grow and thrive is to have residential students in student housing. From the time I got to LCC, I worked on a way to figure out how to expand housing because we were full,” said Lujan.
“And thank goodness for the foundation. They trusted me, went along with me, and we renovated Main Street Student Housing in the old Main Street Motel. The college got housing, but the community was so excited because we took a property that was starting to look a little run down, and we have revitalized it. It’s been a very rewarding project.”
Another way Lujan is giving back to rural community colleges is through her role as vice chair of the Action 22 Foundation Board of Directors, which is launching the Action 22 Leadership Governance & Policy Academy. She plans to continue this vital work after her retirement. The Leadership Governance & Policy Academy is designed to elevate regional leadership, thoughtful public policy, and the integrity of governance for Colorado’s rural communities.
“The Foundation board members, particularly Sarah Blackhurst, the CEO for Action 22, recognized that people working in rural areas of Colorado may not always have the knowledge and expertise to effectively advocate for a position, lobby at the Capitol, and understand the legislative process,” said Lujan. “That’s what this whole leadership program is all about, to really help people in rural areas, not just our 22 counties, but people all across Colorado, to have a lower cost opportunity to learn how things work and how to get things done.”
“Sarah knew I was moving back to Denver after retirement, but she also knew how passionate I am about rural Colorado and the divide between rural Colorado and the rest of the state. I didn’t plan for it, but my role on the board is a great way to help fill that gap after I retire so I can do something with meaning and purpose.”
A Lasting Impression on LCC and Her Colleagues
Over the years since Lujan began her journey at LCC, she has developed relationships and partnerships, making lasting connections and impacts on the college, community, and her colleagues:
“Dr. Lujan has transformed the college’s role and mission and has become a trusted leader for the entire Southeast region. Among her many accomplishments, she spearheaded numerous campus improvement projects, attracted millions in state and federal grants, and launched innovative programs that will take Lamar into the future. Dr. Lujan’s passion for the community college mission is unmatched, and her calm and steady leadership sets an example for all of us. While we will miss her dearly, we know she’ll always be a ‘Lope at heart.” – Joe Garcia, Chancellor of the Colorado Community College System
“Dr. Lujan truly adopted Southeast Colorado and the college as her home when she became our president. She was an inspirational leader yet so approachable and genuine. Not only did she become immersed in our college and community, she also was able to be herself here.” – Anne-Marie Crampton, LCC Director of Institutional Advancement
“Dr. Lujan enriched LCC. My biggest admiration for her was her commitment and dedication to Lamar Community College. President Lujan returned to Colorado, took the Presidency job at LCC, and committed herself to this institution, staff, and students. Dr. Lujan was at a stage in her life where she could have retired. With the loss of her beloved husband (retired police captain, Edward Lujan, Jr.) and the onset of the pandemic, Dr. Lujan could have easily walked off into the sunset of retirement. But she didn’t!! Even during these difficult times, she committed herself to the college and the students we serve. Her dedication, perseverance, and commitment were second to none.” – Chad DeBono, LCC Vice President of Administrative Services/Institutional Effectiveness
An Enduring Passion for Rural Colorado
As Lujan transitions to retirement and moves to the Denver area to be near her family, she’s open to what’s coming in the next phase of her life, but she does not intend to leave behind her passion for rural Colorado.
“So many young people look away from rural opportunities, and yet the rural lifestyle is one of the best in America. Yes, there are problems with living rural. There are challenges. But to be in a community where you know your neighbors, where people wave, and your kids have an opportunity to play every sport, and to be involved in 4-H and FFA…. kids in the big city don’t get opportunities like rural kids do. I just want to keep talking up rural. Because rural America needs young people to stay or young people to come and live and work.”
Lujan’s colleagues say they will continue to live out her legacy through their work at LCC. The entire community thanks her for her service and dedication and for leaving LCC poised for growth and great things ahead.
“From her first day on campus, Dr. Lujan has worked diligently to understand the needs of the college and the community. Her vision has led to incredible improvements on campus and the educational opportunities available for our entire service area. As professionals, we strive to leave an organization better than we found it, and Dr. Lujan is leaving a legacy of exactly that. Her passion to see students succeed in the best educational atmosphere has been the catalyst for change,” said Nikki Johnson, chair of the LCC Advisory Council.
“Thank you, Dr. Lujan, for all you have done for Lamar Community College and for all of us that share your passion. Thank you for asking the questions, listening, challenging, and supporting. You have changed the world because of the lives you have touched. Thank you for blessing us with your time and heart at LCC, and best of luck for this new journey of your life.”
To learn more about contributing to the President Lujan Student Housing Fund to raise support for the Main Street Housing Project and to thank Dr. Linda Lujan for her years of promoting community colleges and rural Colorado, visit lamarcc.edu/invest-in-lcc.