Ron Lafayette, president emeritus of North Seattle Community College, passed away on Saturday, February 22. What a sad day.
Ron was a great president at North and will be remembered as one of the people who influenced and shaped the whole District.
After a proud beginning as a student in a community college (Skagit Valley), Ron’s background was in Audiology and Speech Pathology (BA and MA Western Washington University). He first came to the Seattle District for the Regional Education Program for Deaf Students (Assistant Director 1974-76, Coordinator 1976-79). Under Ron’s leadership, that program won national acclaim and was a model for deaf education. He published a number of research papers in the field of education for hearing-impaired adults, and consulted with colleges nationally and internationally.
Ron continued in the District as director of the Office of Special Programs at Seattle Central until 1982. Between 1982 and 2001, he was the director of the Urban Center at Western, executive vice president for the Institute of Extended Learning at the Community Colleges of Spokane district, interim president of Spokane Community College, and interim director of Workforce Education for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. He earned a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Brigham Young University, and capped off his career of leadership and contribution with his eight-year presidency back in the District.
In his own words, Ron especially valued the community colleges’ “flexibility and entrepreneurship.” He provided stellar leadership from conception to the final product of the Opportunity Center for Employment and Education, the first integrated facility for Employment Security, Department of Social Services and the College Workforce program. He also chaired the Northgate Stakeholders Group, which helped shape plans for revitalization of a large area of North Seattle; he was a member of the United Way of King County Board of Directors; and he played a major role in developing the Alliance for Corporate Education, a collaboration of community colleges that provides customized corporate training.
Ron received the Extra Mile Award from the Spokane Economic Development Council, Phi Beta Kappa’s Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction, and the United Nations Association - Seattle chapter award for contributions to the “human rights of citizens with disabilities.”
In 2009, Ron was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of Western’s Woodring College of Education. He was noted for his support of the partnership between Woodring and North “by providing a path for nontraditional students to become excellent teachers for the state of Washington through programs like ‘Today’s Students – Tomorrow’s Teachers,’ which works with public high schools to identify students with the potential to be great teachers.”
This is exactly what one would expect from Ron—leadership for a great cause, outreach to students with potential who might otherwise be overlooked, and a smile for everyone.
A memorial service will held at 1 pm on Saturday, March 8, at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2015 E Blackburn Road in Mount Vernon. A special event to celebrate Ron’s life will be held at North Seattle Community College on Saturday, March 29. Details will be forthcoming.