The Centralia College Board of Trustees honored two former leaders for their loyalty and years of service on Thursday, giving them each the title of president emeritus.

Former college presidents Hank Kirk and Jim Walton both received the title, along with a certificate for their contributions to Centralia College.

It’s the first time in about 20 years anyone has received the award, and according to Board of Trustees Chairwoman Doris Wood-Brumsickle, likely the first time a president of the college has received the title.

“Jim had come back and helped us so much, and Hank was such a cheerleader for the college that we thought we needed to thank these people for their years of loyalty and their years of service because they are still close to us,” she said.

Kirk was the second-longest serving president at the college. He retired in 2002 after serving in the role for 16 years.

He said he was honored to have received emeritus status.

“I came in 1986 to this institution and it’s very different today than it was back then,” he said. “It was wonderful time. I loved every minute of it. It’s a great community, and the college has wonderful faculty, staff and students.”

As for Walton, he served as the president from 2002 to 2014, and later as the interim president from January to June before current president Bob Mohrbacher was hired.

“For me, it’s been the best time of my life,” Walton said. “I think partly because of the challenges that we had to go through and the fact that everyone pulled together as a family. That’s what this college is all about — it really is a family and we are stronger because of it.”

Both of the former presidents thanked the faculty, staff and students, as well as the board of trustees for their hard work at the institution. Although the ceremony was meant to honor them, they both said it went a lot further than that.

“This is really about everything that everybody has done for such a long period of time, and you can’t do better than to celebrate that,” Walton said.

Kirk echoed that statement, and said student success is most important. 

“We measure the success of this institution as a success to the students,” Kirk said. “Of course they haven’t had an outside commencement speaker for a long time because now we are so stacked up with graduates that have done well, that we just celebrate them and the message is always the same: ‘This place worked for me, it’s going to work for you.’ It’s a beautiful thing.”

Wood-Brumsickle read a public proclamation on behalf of both of the presidents, granting them the title of president emeritus of Centralia College.

She said with the title, they will continue to be honored for the many years they funneled into making the college a better place. 

“Forever after they can sign their name president emeritus and they will be introduced and recognized as such,” she said. “People just need to remember that without these two people, we wouldn’t be where we are today. They’ve been very instrumental in helping us grow.”

Both of the presidents have buildings in their namesake, with the Kirk Library and the Walton Science Center being named after them. 

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