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Montgomery County Women's History Archive:

40 Women of Historical Significance in Montgomery County

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Charlene Nunley


Charlene R. Nunley
(1950- )

First woman President of Montgomery College

Charlene R. Nunley was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1950. Ms. Nunley's professional educational preparation includes a B.A. from Penn State in the Psychology Honors Program in 1972, a M.Ed. degree in Higher Education from Penn State University in 1973, and a Ph.D. from George Washington University in Educational Policy Studies in 1986. She began her career in education as Coordinator of Institutional Research and instructor at Potomac State College of West Virginia University and served as Director of Institutional Research at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland.

Nunley’s involvement with Montgomery College started in 1986. She served as Vice President of Planning and Advancement (1986-89), Professor of Business Administration and Economics (1989-90), and as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer (1990-99). Her career in educational administration has included academic administration, planning, finance, budgeting, and resource development. In 1999, Nunley became the sixth Chief Executive Officer of Montgomery College, following a national search conducted by the Board of Trustees. She became the first woman President of the College.

Montgomery College is the oldest community college in Maryland, serving both Montgomery County and the region for more than 50 years. Over that time, Montgomery College has earned a reputation as one of the best in the nation for its quality and scope of academic programs in the liberal arts, science, business, and technology arenas. The College offers more than 125 degree and certificate programs for students who wish to pursue an associate’s degree, transfer to a four-year college or university, enter into the job market, or upgrade career skills. The College has three main campuses at Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park, Maryland, and satellite facilities for Workforce Development and Continuing Education throughout Montgomery County.

Since Nunley was named President, Montgomery College has become more active and visible within the community. Under her direction, the college has implemented faculty development initiatives; overhauled the general education curriculum; obtained millions of dollars in private, public and grant support for college operations, facilities and scholarships; invested substantial resources to improve financial aid; conducted extensive cultural diversity initiatives; adopted a student success model; developed and implemented the college's appropriate course placement program; and created a new honors program including a summer semester at Cambridge University. Nunley has constructed several new instructional and high technology facilities, like the launching of the Information Technology Institute.

Nunley has initiated a historic partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, and has been instrumental in significantly improving partnerships and relationships with business leaders, community groups, and the public school system. Nunley developed model partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to improve student college readiness. The project involves joint funding, research, testing, intervention activities and development of teacher education and training programs. The MC-MCPS partnership serves as a national model and involves collaboration at all levels, ranging from governing boards to faculty and counselors to ensure that students do not fall behind in middle and high school.

She also has led a collaborative effort between Montgomery College and multiple state universities that bring daytime baccalaureate degree opportunities to Montgomery County residents for the first time. The creation of the Universities at Shady Grove especially impacts the many talented Montgomery College graduates who lack the financial means to move or commute long distances in order to attend University System of Maryland schools. A graduate of Leadership Maryland and Leadership Montgomery, Nunley has authored dozens of papers, contributed to books, and served on numerous boards. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Technology Council of Maryland, the Montgomery County Executive’s Economic Advisory Council, and the Maryland Association of Community College Presidents. She also has received several honors, among them the nomination by the Daily Record, a Baltimore based business newspaper, being one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women for the year 2001. 

Nunley acknowledges that her most significant achievement has been the ability to integrate accomplishments from different areas of her life, like raising a family, earning a Ph.D., and serving the community and accomplishing her professional goals. She also is proud of her work with students and from the creation of the new Montgomery College mission statement.