Chancellor Constance Carroll of San Diego Community College District Calls it Quits

by on February 4, 2020 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

“A Quiet Leader” to Retire

By Colleen O’Connor

She reads a dead language — ancient Greek — to relax.  Will be the distinguished guest speaker at UCSD with a lecture on “Aeschylus’s Oresteia and Athenian politics [ed: see below for more info].”

Yet, insists that her 5,000 employees (faculty, staff, administrators and contractors) and over 100,000 students in her colleges, call her Constance — not Dr. Carroll.

A Ph.D. in classics, a lover of all things operatic, and one of the largest developers in San Diego, “Constance” is retiring from the San Diego Community College District that she has led for sixteen years — after a presidential stint at Mesa College for eleven years.

But, not before having changed the landscape and buildings in and near San Diego City College; San Diego Mesa College, Miramar and various Continuing Education sites.  That she accomplished by overseeing the $1.55 billion bond money from propositions S and N.

She was also was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate for a six-year term on the National Council on the Humanities.

And selected as Chair of the non-profit San Diego Foundation.

Still not satisfied, she pursued the four-year Community College Baccalaureate for work-force demand jobs and leads a nation-wide non-profit association to do likewise.  But, wait there is more.  Even more impressive.

“Constance” Carroll changed the culture of her colleges by understanding that most students struggle — mightily — to pursues even a two-year degree.  Costs for books, fees, food, shelter and protection are impediments for many.

Thus, she launched the district’s San Diego Promise program — guaranteeing two free years of tuition — now serving more than 3000 students annually.  56% of students surveyed at San Diego City College said they faced food insecurity in a nation-wide study conducted by the Wisconsin Hope Lab in 2018.

So, she championed an emergency food pantry for students (no questions asked about need) at City College, and a Free Farmers’ market at Mesa College.

She often monitors everything herself. She sees or hears about a need via her own intelligence gathering.  She wanders through faculty offices; greets students; rides along with the college president; listens to those who approach; and produces results.

And she is fearless. Looking for other opportunities for students, she personally visited Donovan prison to see for herself what was possible.

The results—a program where students earned credit and real-life experience in medical records, dental assistant training, nursing, and phlebotomy—all required for their relevant degrees, but hard to find sufficient mentoring in private practices.

Now for my conflict of interest. I worked with Constance on the Faces of San Diego millennial project.  This was a college-wide, then city-wide and eventually nation-wide effort to collect photographs and short histories of families living in San Diego and eventually America.

The results were beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Thousands of photographs—demonstrating the richness—and fascinating ancestry of San Diego residents were collected. Eventually, the San Diego Union-Tribune featured these stories in weekly editions.

Photographic exhibitions were held at Mesa College, the San Diego Historical Society, the Superior Courts of South Bay and East County, the baggage claim area of the San Diego airport and on the evening of the end of one century and the beginning of the next — on the sails of the Star of India.

A commemorative book was published, Faces of San Diego 2000, and a $250,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities funded the national program.  Thanks to Constance.

Not once did she ask for a “pitch deck” or a massive “To Do” list. Rather, she immediately grasped the fact that “every family has a photograph.  And every photograph has a history.” And championed the unspoken wisdom and relevant history—evident in each of these precious family photos.

That she will be retiring is inevitable.  That the Board begged her to stave off this moment twice before speaks volumes about he leadership skills.  When she left Saddleback College to come to Mesa, the interviewing committee called the faculty for references.  They spoke eloquently and admitted that many faculty members cried when they heard she was leaving.

Me, I recently asked her to run for Mayor.  I believe such a quiet, competent leader (with a rolodex and resume greater than the Governor’s) is exactly what the City needs.  She declined.

A loss for the City, but a gain for those she will help in the future. The single year provided for the Board to find a replacement is not enough.

Constance is irreplaceable.

Dr. Constance M. Carroll is giving a lecture on UCSD’s campus on February 26, 2020. Dr. Carroll will be this year’s distinguished guest speaker for the annual Ranglas lecture.  Dr. Carroll’s talk will be on Aeschylus’s Oresteia and Athenian Politics.  The location is 1 Scholars Drive N., in The Village 15th Floor, Rooms 15A-B.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Hopper Moss February 5, 2020 at 7:58 am

Name: Job title Regular pay Benefits Total pay & Benefits
Constance M Carroll Chancellor $348,690.60 $68,517.82 $417,208.42



Geoff Page February 5, 2020 at 11:12 am

Perhaps you should have let Dr. Carroll proofread your comment so she could have helped you clearly express whatever antagonistic point you are trying to make.


Jessica McKean February 7, 2020 at 10:09 am

Are you saying she didn’t make enough? Because that is actually quite a low salary for someone who is basically the CEO of a billion dollar company whose customers are students.


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