Sierra Nevada College welcomes new president
A warm, polite demeanor complements Robert Maxson’s Southern accent. Born on an Arkansas cotton farm, he rose to the heights of academic power while maintaining that likeability.
Maxson was introduced as Sierra Nevada College’s new president Friday morning after the school’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to elect him.
Maxson has more than 30 years’ of administrative positions at higher-learning institutions under his belt.
A graduate student at Mississippi State University in the late 1960s, he was involved in the civil rights movement, though he said he was only a follower.
During a speech to a Long Beach Rotary Club, where he was the president of California State University at Long Beach, Maxson shared with the professionals his main priorities.
“Without thinking, I told them I have three priorities: number one is students, number two is students, and number three is students. The only reason any of us are here (in higher education) is because of the students. Administration, staff, faculty, all of us have jobs because of the students,” Maxson said.
The students, he said during an interview, are part of the reason Maxson accepted the SNC job. During his last position as special assistant to the chancellor of the California State University system, Maxson mentored new presidents and aided those who needed guidance.
He would go home to his wife, Dr. Sylvia Parrish Maxson, a retired English professor, and lament about not being able to interact with students.
“I’d go home and say I didn’t get to see any students, I didn’t get to interact with any students. In fact, I used to walk over to the student unions at all the campuses and there would be kids there, and I think she knew I sorely missed the students,” Maxson said.
Longtime friend and SNC Board of Trustees Chairman Barry Munitz was searching for a new president to fill the role that Dr. Larry Large was facilitating on an interim basis. Munitz met Maxson when the two were working for the University of Houston in the late 1970s. Their relationship continued in 1994 when Munitz, then chancellor of the Cal State system, hired Maxson as president of Long Beach.
Maxson’s resume includes hundreds of millions of dollars in fundraising and numerous awards. His tenure at Long Beach was marked with exponential growth and success in academics and beyond.
He hopes to expand SNC’s enrollment. He explained the best way to offer more courses, to broaden a school’s curriculum as well as the services it provides its students, is to expand enrollment.
“I don’t want to have 900 students to say we have 900. I want that many so we can give students a wide variety of choices here,” Maxson said.
Soliciting donations is a major factor in any president’s tenure. While Maxson asks community donors to give financially to the school, he also asks his students to give back to the community.
“Every time one of them gets financial aid, that is someone else’s money. The students need to realize that and give back to the community with their time. I think that is a very important part of the learning process.”
He said the college’s $15 million contract with the Knowledge Universe Learning Group, an educational resource for faculty and students, appears to be a good plan both fiscally and academically.