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Weiss and Rice Discuss CEO Leadership Transition at SIC

On July 1st, she’ll take over as the 7th President at Southeastern Illinois College.  Dr. Karen Weiss will also be the first president of the college from White County.  After 15 years at the helm and 34 in education, Dr. Jonah Rice will formally step down.  Weiss and Rice were guests at Carmi Kiwanis Thursday to detail the leadership transition and provide an update on the Stan Williams Career and Training Center in Carmi.

Rice graduated from the college he leads in the 1980s and returned to SIC as a junior faculty member in 1990.  When initially offered the presidency in 2009, Rice hesitated, but says his affection for the college and belief in its mission led to him accepting the interim role.  Notwithstanding a bevy of challenges over his tenure at the top including budget impasses, state financial issues, a tornado, declining district population, and a pandemic, Rice was pivotal in developing a fund balance policy to establish a safety net for emergencies and grossly late state payments.  He laid out the transition timeline since he gave the district ample notice of his intent to retire.

18-24 months out, we had discussions about my departure, what the board wanted to do, what would be best for the institution, to keep momentum going such as the Carmi project and other things we needed to engage.  And then really, about that year to 18-month mark, that’s after lots of internal discussion, the board decided and I think they made the very wise decision to stay internal because they had a great candidate who could pick up the baton without tripping or stumbling.

For the last year, Rice and Weiss have been mended at the side through plenty of shadowing.  Rice says it’s gone really well and he’s looking forward to “used to being somebody”.

You know that has been moniker isn’t a bad thing after 35 years and I’m looking forward to that and just being a husband and a father.

Three to six months ago, Weiss began taking on a decision-making role and the duo started making joint judgements.  Rice says she was the best choice to help keep the momentum going.  Weiss graduated from Carmi in 1982 and opened by saying her dad would be so proud.  She says while Rice is retiring, he’s going to be on speed dial for the next year.  For her, building on established success is the next step and that includes the Stan Williams Carmi Center.  She’s well versed and well known within already established departments throughout SIC after 25 years.

I have the advantage of knowing the board.  I’ve worked with the board on different things.  I understand, know the people, I love SIC.  I started out here at Carmi, have grown and matured and come up through the SIC institution.

With the first phase of the Stan Williams Center complete, attention is now turning toward the next chapter.

The second certificate is in Industrial Arts and that will be coming in the fall.  The second phase of the building project is delayed just a bit so we’ll start in the current building and move to the new building when it’s complete, probably in the spring.  That will really focus on the trades like electrical, carpentry, plumbing, we hope to get that started and up and running.

Additionally, Weiss says meaningful progress will require active engagement with faculty, staff, students, and the communities the college serves.  Collaboration with local stakeholders, identifying workforce needs, and fostering partnerships with community and civic groups to help create fruitful connections between SIC and it’s broader setting.

Stan Williams, a Kiwanian, was awarded the SIC Foundation’s Franks Visionary Philanthropist Award.  It was his $505,667 gift on top of $4.9 million of state and local funds that helped make the center a reality.

Learn more about SIC online at https://sic.edu/

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