WHITTIER – Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss, who helped lead Rio Hondo College through the Great Recession, execute close to $300 million in construction projects, open three regional campuses and create a historic four-year degree in automotive technology, will retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.
Dreyfuss started at the College as an accountant in 1987 and rose through the ranks to become interim superintendent/president in 2012 and assuming the post permanently a year later. She announced her plan to step down on Aug. 17 to administrators, faculty and students attending a bi-annual FLEX staff development event.
Her last day will be June 30, 2019, ensuring time for a seamless transition in leadership.
“Teresa Dreyfuss is one of those rare individuals who understands both the fine details and the big picture,” Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said. “Her passion and leadership have translated into a legacy of success for Rio Hondo College. She will be greatly missed.”
In her roles as senior accountant, controller/business manager, chief financial officer and vice president of finance and business, Dreyfuss focused on ensuring the College’s fiscal stability. During the Great Recession, Rio Hondo College avoided layoffs and furloughs, an achievement Shapiro attributes to Dreyfuss’ careful planning.
An immigrant from Taiwan, Dreyfuss often called on her journey to the presidency as a way to inspire Rio Hondo College students with their potential to succeed.
“I came into this country as an immigrant and discovered a place at Rio Hondo College, one of the most creative and dedicated communities I have ever experienced,” Dreyfuss said. “I love this College and what it has become.”
El Monte Mayor André Quintero praised Dreyfuss for her oversight of nearly $300 million in capital projects.
“I have had the honor to know President Dreyfuss for 17 years,” Quintero said. “I will always be grateful to her for her masterful implementation of the facilities master plan and bond program. Her devoted leadership provided us with facilities that will serve generations of students.”
Since 2004, the College has built an Administration of Justice Building, Learning Resource Center, Applied Technology Complex, P.E. Complex, police and fire training facilities, a Student Services building and the Student Union.
Regional campuses also opened in South Whittier in 2009, El Monte in 2012 and Pico Rivera in 2016.
Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo Camacho said Dreyfuss should be credited with transforming the College and extending its reach deeply into the local communities.
“It has been an honor working with President Teresa Dreyfuss,” Camacho said. “Through her leadership we have a satellite campus in the City of Pico Rivera and have a positive working relationship with the college. The next president of the college will have some big shoes to fill. Teresa will be missed.”
Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri said Dreyfuss provided a perfect blend of fiscal stewardship and inspirational leadership.
“She has a great sense of providing leadership for the academic program, the students and the faculty, while at the same time having a tight rein on the spending … a balance that has brought strength to the college,” Vinatieri said.
In 2013-14, Rio Hondo College became one of a select group of community colleges to host the Pathway to Law School program, which guides students from community college, through four-year universities, to one of eight top California law schools. Earlier this year, the College’s program received the Diversity Champion Award from California LAW for excellence.
The College also created a historic four-year Bachelor of Science in automotive technology. In June 2019, the first graduates will receive their bachelor’s degrees.
In 2017, the College created the Rio Promise, which offers a free year of tuition and priority registration to recent public high school graduates in its service area. A free tuition program for second-year students will launch in September.
Meanwhile, from 2014-15 to 2017-18, the number of associate degrees conferred increased by 80 percent and the number of students who received certificates increased by 215 percent. Rio Hondo College also expanded its associate degrees for transfer – which guarantee admission to a California State University campus – from four to 27.
Dr. Adam Wetsman, a Rio Hondo College anthropology professor and president of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, praised Dreyfuss for her leadership.
“Over the last half-dozen years, Teresa Dreyfuss has embodied everything a great college president should be,” said Wetsman, who received the college system’s 2018 Hayward Award for excellence in teaching, professional activities and commitment to students.
“While ensuring that student success and equity are the foundations for everything we do, she has overseen sound fiscal practices, solidified enduring connections with the community and maintained positive relationships with the faculty,” Wetsman said. “Rio Hondo College is a better place because of President Dreyfuss.”
Dr. Tom Huffman, who served as director and dean of admissions and records from 1983 to 1996, called Dreyfuss “one of the most important individuals in the history of Rio Hondo.”
“Her leadership on the fiscal side and on governance has given our communities the college that they deserve – one that symbolizes excellence, leadership, innovation, fiscal stability, high morale and a student-centered approach,” Huffman said.
RHC_DREYFUSS_1: Rio Hondo College President Teresa Dreyfuss will step down on June 30, 2019 after more than 31 years of service.