From West Hills College
West Hills College District Chancellor Stuart Van Horn
West Hills College District Chancellor Stuart Van Horn

West Hills Community College District Chancellor Dr. Stuart Van Horn announced today (September 24) that he plans to retire June 30, 2021, after four years as district Chancellor and 35-years as an administrator in the California community college system.

Van Horn joined the West Hills district in 2013 as vice chancellor and served as the district’s interim president of West Hills College Coalinga before assuming the chancellor’s role in July 2017.

His career spans nearly five decades in the California community college system, at both the local district and statewide administrative roles.

“I applaud Chancellor Van Horn for his outstanding career at West Hills. Stu brought new thinking that resulted in answers and solving problems. We will miss his statesman-like approach that he brought to every situation and decision,” said the district board’s president, Mark McKean. 

A resident of Lemoore, Van Horn was hired by former West Hills College District Chancellor Frank Gornick in 2013. Upon arrival at West Hills, the two developed numerous innovative partnerships. They implemented many systemic applications that earned West Hills three Governor’s Awards for Innovation in Higher Education, the only multi-college community college district in the state to do so.

“I am very grateful to the board of trustees, faculty, and staff. It’s a remarkable organization by design. I was able to get things done here to implement curriculum diversification to widen student demand and innovate in ways that differentiated West Hills from many other community college districts in the state. As I reflect on my career, my greatest memories will reside in the incredible employees at West Hills and the opportunity our colleges provide to so many individuals,” said Van Horn.

During his time with the district, Van Horn increased student enrollment, widened student access platforms, launched various management accountability and leadership development programs, updated policies and procedures, created the Essential Elements policy series, and, most recently, steered the district through unprecedented fiscal reductions and the COVID-19 pandemic. He also led the transition of the district to a new headquarters building in Coalinga and launched the $50 million modernization project of the North District Center in Firebaugh.

“Chancellor Van Horn is a consummate supporter and advocate for rural education. His passion for envisioning programs and developing partnerships that guide students to livable wage employment exemplifies our relentless pursuit of student success,” said West Hills College Lemoore President Kristin Clark.  “His roots in the California community colleges and his deep commitment to equitable, affordable education transform futures for students and communities. He is truly a lifelong educator; we applaud his work and wish him well in his next chapter,” said continued.

Van Horn is credited with encouraging both colleges to operate more independently of the district and decentralized various district instructional and student services operations at the colleges.

His ability to translate complex challenges into clear directives was well-known throughout the district. He created many instrumental partnerships, grants, and digital applications that enabled the colleges to use data analytics applications that support student retention and completion.

West Hills College District Chancellor Stuart Van Horn announces impending retirement

“His keen insight into instructional practices, workforce development, and student success has been instrumental in advancing organizational growth and development in many key areas.  His legacy includes multi-million-dollar grants and awards that have fueled innovation and the relentless pursuit of student success within our district and the central valley region.  From hardcore advocate for our underserved communities to music aficionado, his optimism and enthusiasm will leave a lasting impression,” said West Hills College Coalinga President Brenda Thames.

He began his career at the California Association of Community Colleges (Sacramento) in 1984. He served in administrative roles at Mt. San Antonio College, Folsom Lake College, the California Community College Athletic Association, West Hills College Coalinga, and the West Hills district office. He has served on various boards, including the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board, Kings County Economic Development Corporation, Fresno Business Council, and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) board of Kings County.

Born in Newport Beach, CA, Van Horn and his wife Sandy have two adult sons and four grandchildren. A national search to replace Van Horn will begin in October. It is expected that the next chancellor will be appointed by the West Hills College District Board of Trustees at its April 20, 2021 meeting with a July 1, 2021 start date.