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Gallon receives James L. Wattenbarger Award

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Dr. Edwin Massey, president of Indian River State College, presents Dr. Dennis Gallon with the James L. Wattenbarger Award on behalf of the Florida College System Council of Presidents.

Dr. Dennis P. Gallon, former Palm Beach State College president, was honored last Thursday by his peers around the state for his more than four decades of work and dedication to the Florida College System.

Gallon was presented the James L. Wattenbarger Award by the Florida College System Council of Presidents during the Association of Florida College’s Annual Meeting and Conference Nov. 10-13 in Lake Buena Vista. The prestigious award is given annually in honor of Wattenbarger, a 1941 Palm Beach Junior College graduate who is considered to be the father of Florida’s community college system. Wattenbarger himself received the first such award named in his honor in 2001.

A former high school teacher, Gallon began his higher education career at Florida Community College at Jacksonville (now called Florida State College at Jacksonville), as an adjunct professor before becoming a tenured professor and then moving up the administrative ranks to become president of the Kent Campus. He worked there for 25 years before becoming the fourth president of Palm Beach State College in 1997. He retired June 30.

Gallon led PBSC has through a period of extensive growth. Under his leadership the College’s enrollment nearly doubled, student completion rates increased from 20 percent to 43 percent and the Dr. Floyd F. Koch honors College was established. The College also began offering bachelor’s degrees and gained approval for a fifth campus in Loxahatchee Groves, among other accomplishments. The District Board of Trustees voted in June to name the new campus, slated to open in fall 2016, in Dr. Gallon’s honor.

Dr. Edwin Massey, president of Indian River State College, presented the award to Gallon on behalf of the Council of Presidents. In accepting the honor, Gallon noted that he could not be successful without his great teams and the support of individuals like Wattenbarger, who served as a mentor. “There are few things that are accomplished alone,’’ he said.

Wattenbarger’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Florida outlined a master plan that the state used in 1955 to rebuild its community college system. That year, Wattenbarger – then serving as a professor at the UF’s College of Education – was tapped to head a new council dedicated to restructuring community colleges. In 1957, he became head of the new Division of Community Colleges, a title he held until 1966.

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