Washingtonian of the Year 2010: Robert Templin

The NOVA president is opening doors to opportunity

By: Leslie Milk

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Bob Templin had no intention of enrolling when he drove his girlfriend to Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland. It was 1965, and his high-school guidance counselor had told Templin he wasn’t college material.

Templin was hanging around campus when a Harford admissions officer convinced him to sign up for classes.

Now president of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), Templin sees himself in many of the school’s 78,000 students. Lots of them weren’t considered college material, either. Also like Templin, many are the first in their families to seek higher education.

Templin came to NOVA from the Morino Institute, where he researched educational and technological obstacles facing low-income Washingtonians. He realized there had been a huge demographic shift in Washington—more than half of the area’s population growth was due to immigration. Children in these new families were often relegated to the educational periphery.

Templin sees NOVA as a mecca for newcomers—a gateway to the American dream. That’s one reason he’s pushed NOVA to expand despite cuts in state funding. Since he became president in 2002, enrollment has risen by more than 18,000. NOVA has opened three new centers, increased annual revenues by more than $100 million, and branched out into health-care fields where jobs are increasing.

He has pushed for collaborative programs to pull both kids and adults into higher education. The Pathway to the Baccalaureate program, a joint venture with several education institutions in Northern Virginia, helps more than 5,000 kids get ready for college and make the transition to college life.

Most of the people in the Training Futures program, in which Templin partners with Northern Virginia Family Service, are immigrants and single heads of households. They learn job skills and earn college credit. More than 600 have graduated from the program. “When they find out they’re getting credit, their whole attitude changes,” Templin says. “This is a place that makes dreams come true.”

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