Blackhawk Tech president stepping down after 2015-16 school year

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Nick Crow
Friday, July 31, 2015

JANESVILLE — Tom Eckert started as Blackhawk Technical College president shortly after General Motors closed its assembly plant in Janesville.

He was on board during the implementation of Act 10, was in charge when the state restructured the school’s aid and was the leader of a failed referendum to update BTC facilities.

Blackhawk Tech announced Friday that Eckert will retire at the end of the upcoming academic year.

Eckert was out of the office and not available for comment, according to a BTC release.

“He’s displayed a vision for the college during enrollment fluctuations, changes in state aid and new funding formulas,” said Barbara Barrington-Tillman, BTC board chairwoman. “He’s been able to look at the challenges and needs at the facilities and always keeps in mind what Blackhawk’s role is in the community.”

Eckert has been with BTC since September 2010, when he replaced Eric Larson as president.

His last day will be June 30, 2016.

“He came to the college during one of our most difficult times after the GM closure,” Barrington-Tillman said. “We had an influx of students at the college, which was a strain of faculty and staff. He was also our leader during Act 10 changes and budget changes and during the need to upgrade facilities. He’s done a great job of leading those efforts.”

Eckert has a Master's degree in counseling psychology from Central Washington University and a doctorate in educational leadership from Seattle University. He made his retirement decision known during the BTC District Board annual summer retreat.

Barrington-Tillman said Eckert always made it a point to focus on creating opportunities for individuals to be more employable.

“He always looks at a situation and arrives at a decision point that’s economically sound and keeps an eye on the future at Blackhawk.” she said.

Those traits are what the board will look for in a replacement, she said.

The board will soon begin a national search for his replacement and has created an outline for the search using a consultancy firm. They hope to have his replacement chosen by spring 2016, she said.

“We’ll want someone with experience in the technical college system, an educational background and someone that can come into an environment and easily assess needs and have the analytical ability to set a vision for the college,” Barrington-Tillman said. “We want someone who will work in the community to build partnerships with business partners and manufacturing partners and meet their needs.”

Eckert, 62, moved to BTC from Bellingham Technical College in Washington state, where he was president for three years. Prior to that, he spent 14 years at Nicolet Area Technical College in Rhinelander, where he started as the director of the student development center and finished as the vice-president of college services.

“Dr. Eckert has been a good steward for the college,” Barrington-Tillman said. “He’s someone that really cares about the Rock and Green County communities and has recognized his responsibility as leader of the college.

“He’s worked with businesses, manufacturers and legislators to always make sure BTC was in the position to provide training to people who have a need for good, solid training opportunities, she said.

“He’s continually thought about how Blackhawk can serve the needs of its students.”

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