MJC names finalists in second try at hiring president. You can meet them Tuesday

Modesto Junior College has named four finalists for president and invites the public to meet them Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Two of the finalists, Brenda Thames and Jennifer Zellet, have MJC posts on their resumes. The others, Jerry Buckley and James Houpis, help lead other community colleges.

This is the second go-round in finding a successor to Jill Stearns, who left last year to become president of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. In July, Chancellor Henry Yong of the Yosemite Community College District declined to choose from two finalists. He did not elaborate in the announcement.

The base annual salary will range from $199,544 to $240,548, according to a district board vote last May. Yong will recommend a president to the board, which also will set the pay.

More about the finalists:

  • Zellet is vice president of instruction at MJC. She previously served at the college as an English professor and dean of business, behavioral and social sciences. She was academic dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Rochester College in Michigan. She has a doctorate in English, a masters in Scottish and Irish Studies and a bachelors in liberal studies.
  • Thames is president of West Hills College in Coalinga. She served at MJC as vice president of instruction and vice president of student services. Before that, she was dean of counseling and student services at American River College, near Sacramento. She expects to complete a doctorate in adult and higher education in May. She has masters degrees in social work and public administration and a bachelors in sociology and social welfare.

  • Buckley is assistant superintendent/vice president of academic affairs at College of the Canyons, near Los Angeles. He earlier served as vice president of instruction at San Diego Miramar College and as dean, senior dean and lead faculty at Grossmont College, near San Diego. He was supervisor and coordinator of cardiac research for Sharp Healthcare in San Diego. He holds a doctorate with an emphasis in community college leadership, a masters in biology and a bachelors in biological sciences.

  • Houpis is dean of academic support and learning technologies at Skyline College in San Bruno. He served at California State University, East Bay, as provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of earth and environmental sciences. He was dean of natural sciences at CSU Chico and professor of applied ecology, pollution ecology and environmental sciences at Southern Illinois University. He also worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as an environmental scientist and project leader. He earned a doctorate in forest science, a masters in biology and a bachelors in environmental sciences.

The finalists will appear separately in hour-long forums in the district boardroom, 2201 Blue Gum Avenue, Modesto. Zellet will be at 9 a.m., Houpis at 10 a.m., Thames at 11 a.m. and Buckley at 1 p.m.

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.