Our View | Well-Deserved Congratulations to Van Hook

Our View

By The Signal Editorial Board

It’s a timely moment to extend congratulations to Dr. Dianne Van Hook, the chancellor of College of the Canyons.

Last week, Van Hook celebrated her 36th anniversary as the chief executive of the Santa Clarita Valley’s community college. In those 36 years, she has orchestrated and led a massive transformation of COC from a somewhat sleepy small-town community college into a two-campus powerhouse of education with facilities and a faculty that rival many four-year universities. 

When Van Hook took over as the superintendent of the Santa Clarita Community College District in 1988, COC had 60 full-time faculty members — and now has more than 230. It had less than 200,000 square feet of classroom, lab and office space and now boasts 1 million square feet across two campuses, the original campus in Valencia and the campus in Canyon Country that opened in 2007. 

According to COC, during Van Hook’s tenure the college has gone from $109,000 in annual fundraising revenue to $1.4 million, from less than $100,000 per year in grant funds to $16 million and from an $8 million annual budget to $164 million.

Adjusted for inflation, that $8 million budget from 1988 would be equivalent to $21.2 million today. The $109,000 in fundraising would be equivalent to $289,000.

The growth is real, in fact remarkable, in terms of facilities, programs, faculty — by any metric you might choose to ascertain whether COC has met or exceeded the expectations and educational needs of one of the fastest-growing communities in California over the past three and a half decades.

In an interview with The Signal last year on the occasion of her 35th anniversary with the college, Van Hook said she wants COC to be on par with local California State University and University of California campuses. 

Mark that mission, among many others, accomplished. 

This spring’s COC graduation conferred 3,215 degrees across 129 majors. Let that sink in for a second: This is a community college. It offers more than 120 majors and serves more than 30,000 students per year.

None of this just happens in a vacuum. And of course no one person does it alone — many leaders, on campus and in our community, share credit for the college’s many successes. 

But, it’s undeniable that, over the past 36 years, Van Hook’s leadership, and, notably, her persuasiveness and aptitude for arm-twisting Sacramento politicians, has, to put it plainly, gotten things done.

Yet, in that interview from last year, Van Hook said that what she’s most proud of is less about the numbers and more about the people those numbers serve.  

“Walt Disney always used to say the magic is in the people who were in the place, so I’m proud of the magic that people bring to this place that gives students hope that helps them believe … you can do anything if you believe in yourself and you never give up, and that’s what I’m most proud of — is that we engender hope in people for the future, whatever that future is,” Van Hook said at the time.  

Have we always agreed with Van Hook on every issue that has faced the college? Of course not. But there is simply no denying that she has always had the best interests of the community’s students at heart. She has worked tirelessly and aggressively to elevate COC to become the kind of institution that makes high-quality education affordable and accessible, with first-class facilities that she’s helped make possible, including a state-of-the-art performing arts center, a university-quality library, new science and other academic buildings, and a university center — bearing her name — where local students can earn a bachelor’s degree from one of several cooperating four-year universities. 

All of this leads one to wonder what exactly has been going on lately with the (mostly) elected COC board of trustees: 

One board member, Chuck Lyon, has resigned, citing a distaste for politics. 

Another, the long-serving Joan MacGregor, has said she plans to resign — but, perhaps in a move that illustrates the politics Lyon finds so distasteful, she has intentionally avoided making her resignation official until after the deadline to get the seat placed on the November ballot, because she would rather see the remaining board members choose her replacement than allow the voting public to have any say in the matter.

While all of this has been going on, the board has now conducted three consecutive meetings in which closed-session discussions were held for the purpose of the board evaluating the chancellor’s performance.

That, if nothing else, is unusual.

What does all this really mean? Only the board members who have been privy to those closed-session discussions really know.

What we do know is this: Anyone with half a brain should be able to evaluate the performance of Dianne Van Hook over the past 36 years and conclude that her tenure as chancellor has been an unqualified success. 

After 36 years, she’s clearly closer to the end of her tenure than she is to the beginning. But if anyone in public service in the Santa Clarita Valley has ever earned the right to retire on their own terms, it’s Dianne Van Hook.

And with that, we again congratulate her — not just on her 36-year anniversary, but on all that she has accomplished in those 36 years, to the benefit of untold thousands of local students who have gone on to successful lives and careers thanks to College of the Canyons and a chancellor who has worked tirelessly and intelligently on their behalf.

On behalf of all of them, thank you, Dianne Van Hook.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS