TPE Hero of the Month

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TPE monthly Hero poster designed by Jeffery A. Taylor – Jeffery A. Taylor Design Studios

College leader is Detroit’s hidden gem

By: Trish Brown


Dr. Curtis L. Ivery is the best thing to hit Detroit since the invention of the automobile, and one of the most effective higher education leaders in the United States. Today we are proud to announce that he is our TPE Hero for September 2012.

When he arrived at Wayne County Community College District in late 1995 as the 19th chancellor in 27 years, he assumed the role as leader of one of the nation’s worst community colleges.  With three campuses in the City of Detroit, and two in the suburbs, Ivery faced a challenge to not only repair years of ineptness, but also a challenge that included overcoming the so-called racial divide that pitted a fledgling city against more affluent suburbs.

In making this announcement, I must be candid in saying I have worked for Wayne County Community College District, as a public relations consultant since 1993, and by the time Dr. Ivery arrived in late 1995, I had worked for two other WCCCD chancellors, and was not exactly sure anyone could turn the college around, because it was simply that bad.

To make matters worse, one of the two suburban campuses had been closed and reopened to house less than 100 students on a campus that could hold at least 2,000 students.

I remember thinking, when he listed his 14 initiatives in January 1996, that he would be gone before I could count to 14.

Dr Curtis Ivery and Merrill Osmond after a performance and music conference at Wayne County Community College District Western Campus in Belleville, MI Sept 2001

Though I was an education advocate before I met him, my destiny and passion for education was solidified by his example. I personally credit Dr. Ivery for most of my successes as an education advocate, and I am certain there are many more who do the same.

Dr. Ivery grew up in Texas, and went on to become the first African American to serve in a governor’s cabinet in Arkansas under then Gov. Bill Clinton.

Dr. Ivery became Chancellor of Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD) on September 1, 1995.  As the Chief Executive Officer, Ivery directs the five campus, multi-cultural institution serving more than 72,000 students annually, in a 550 square-mile district. Dr. Ivery is very active in the state of Michigan, local and national organizations.

He is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Dr Curtis Ivery and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts

On June 19, 2012 Dr. Ivery was awarded the Closing the Gap award by New Detroit Incorporated, honoring him as a person who has made a significant contribution to eliminate the disparities that exist because of race.

On May 18, 2012 the American Association of Blacks in Energy awarded Dr. Ivery with the Lewis H. Latimer Award. He received the Distinguished Service Award presented by the Detroit City Council in February 2011 during the Black History Celebration.

In May 2010 Ivery was chosen as one of the first recipients of the Dr. Charles H. Wright Vision Awards “Builders of the Vision” Celebration of Higher Education.  In November 2008 Dr. Ivery was named ‘2008 Newsmaker of the Year’ by the Michigan Chronicle and in May 2008, Dr. Ivery was selected as a Man of Excellence by the Michigan Chronicle.  Chancellor Ivery was a recipient of the 2004 Michiganian of the Year Award, and the SCLC Septima Clark Award for Excellence in Education.  In April 1996, the Life Extension Foundation selected Ivery as the “Community College President of the Year”.

Dr. Ivery, and his wife, Ola, are the parents of two adult children, and also have two grandsons.

If you want to build a career or become a better person find someone to emulate. I would not hesitate in saying that anyone who emulates Dr. Ivery will improve not only their lives, but the lives of those around them.




Trish Brown

About Trish Brown

Trish Brown was a news reporter and editor, a former school board president, the founder of Communication Concepts a PR firm in the Detroit area, and founder of all TPE entities,, and She has worked with the Osmonds and other celebs while trying to advance education in the k-12 and post-secondary arenas.