New Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert said he took the job because he wants to be part of providing hope for people.
Lambert, who started this week at Pima after more than seven years as president of Shoreline Community College in Seattle, said in an Arizona Week interview that his parents' lack of opportunity was part of his motivation to get involved in higher education.
"My father grew up in North Carolina on a tobacco farm; my mother is from Korea, war-torn Korea at the time," Lambert said. "They didn't have opportunities the way I have been able to enjoy the opportunities I have today. So being able to be in an environment where I can make sure that other folks, like my parents, have opportunities going forward into the future."
The closeness to the community is part of Lambert's motivation for being in the two-year, community college system rather than at a four-year institution, he said.
"I realize I love the mission of the two-year system, being open to the community, really based to serve the community," he said. "And having the systems where we're there for people to provide that hope. We may be someone's first chance; we may be someone's last chance. That's different than the mission of a four-year college."
Lambert said the obvious caring for Pima that the Tucson community has was manifest in its fervor about the issues the college experienced under its previous chancellor, the now retired Roy Flores.
He said that when he learned community members had gone to the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits Pima and has put it on probation, he knew that people love the college and would support him in rebuilding it.
"I really want to be in a place where I think there's an opportunity make a big impact in terms of the contributions that community colleges have on their communities and knowing that the support of the community is part of that ability," Lambert said. "There's no better place in the country where you have a community that cares so much about its community college."
Lambert graduated from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., with a liberal arts degree. He earned a law degree from Seattle University School of Law and worked as a prosecutor in Washington state before teaching at Evergreen.
He eventually moved to Shoreline in an administrative role and became the college's president in June 2006.