Director of Enrollment to retire after 40 years of service
After 40 years of work at Palomar, Director of Enrollment Herman Lee will be retiring on July 31.
Looking back over his extensive career, Lee recalled the old days when he first started working here, when the only way you could get your classes was by a complex system of note cards and the only computer they had stretched across a whole room.
“I’ve never had a boring day,” Lee said. “A lot of people ask me, ‘Gee, how can you do it for 40 years?’ But really, I’ve never been bored.”
Lee earned his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in earth sciences and his master’s degree from then-California State of Los Angeles. After that, he considered going to San Jose State University for graduate school, but was one of 17 people in the nation to be offered a spot in an institute for the training of community college administrators and counselors.
“I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to get my graduate work paid by the federal government, so I took the grant,” Lee said. “It led me in this other direction with community colleges.”
After Lee graduated from the program, he found himself looking for a job and applied for the open position of registrar at Palomar in 1972.
“Those were in the glory days of community colleges back in the ‘70s, when community colleges were growing almost 10 percent a year,” Lee said. “They were hiring all over the place.”
Lee said that the experience of getting the job was much more casual that it is today.
“I walked in and I remember talking to the dean of students at the time, we just sat around and chit-chatted for a while and he hardly asked me any questions at all,” Lee said. “Then he calls the president, and the president gets together a few people…so I walked over to this room, there’s about 10-12 people in this room, nobody had any set questions, there was just a conversation going back and forth for an half and a hour.”
He said that after the interview, he went back to L.A. where he was living at the time, and didn’t hear anything from Palomar for over a week.
“So I called the dean of students and told him…I applied for the position a week ago and hadn’t heard from you, and he said, ‘Oh, you got the job,’” he said.
Lee came to Palomar as a faculty member on special assignment, because student services wasn’t a part of the administration back then. To this day, he has tenure as a faculty member.
There were only 7,000 students at Palomar when Lee started working here. He said that the clock tower hadn’t even been built yet and that Palomar was called a “cow-town college” because it was in the middle of nowhere.
Over the years, Lee has accumulated various duties and roles, like overseeing international students and international education, providing administrative coverage over financial aid and scholarships, and then ultimately earning his current title.
“He’s very knowledgeable, extremely competent, very dedicated and very student-oriented,” Palomar President Robert Deegan said. “He will be sorely missed here at the college.”
One of Lee’s biggest accomplishments was moving the outdated enrollment system from paper to automatic. According to Lee, students no longer have to wait in long lines just go get the classes they need, now they can do everything they need to online.
“We’ve made things easier for students to enroll, to get transcripts online, to get what they need to graduate to transfer without really ever having to come into the office,” Lee said.
Lee said that the two things that kept him excited about his job was working with the people here and seeing big changes on campus. He said he feels that the college is very open to change and is determined to make things better.
“Herman is one of the very few people ever to have spent 40 years as an administrator,” Deegan said. “His knowledge and expertise and the experience that he brings to the college and the work that he does is invaluable to us.”
In terms of post-retirement plans, Lee is looking forward to having some down time. He said that he would be interested in doing some volunteer work for Angel’s People or the Bread of Life Mission. He also said that he would be interested in getting back into golf or helping out at Palomar as a math tutor. But he said he doesn’t plan to rush into things.
“I know one thing that it’s not going to be,” Lee said. “I’m not going to get into a 8-5, five days a week situation. I’m looking forward to my Mondays being just like my Fridays.”
Lee described his retirement as bittersweet.
“I think that after all this time, I pretty much have seen anything that will come up,” he said. “You get to the point that being in a full-time job, I’m getting lazy, so I’ll probably take some time off to relax and explore my options.”