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COC's Van Hook honored by L.A. County

Posted: February 19, 2009 2:53 p.m.
Updated: February 19, 2009 11:53 a.m.
In one of her first positions in community colleges, an enterprising young faculty member created a model program for Santa Ana College in the Rancho Santiago Community College District - a program that would help other women enter the workforce by giving them access to the training and support services they needed to succeed.

Within five years, the program became a state model and was funded at more than 50 other colleges across California.

She named her re-entry program New Horizons, and now, decades later, the Los Angeles County Commission for Women and County Board of Supervisors has announced that College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook will be honored as a recipient of the 2009 Woman of the Year Award during the prestigious 24th Annual Women of the Year Awards Luncheon in March.

The county's Commission for Women was established in 1975 (about the same time Chancellor Van Hook helped create her first women's re-entry center) to represent the special interests and concerns of women of all races, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, religious convictions, social circumstances and sexual orientation.

One of the commission's priorities has been to recommend programs or legislation to promote and ensure equal rights and opportunities for women, in addition to recognizing outstanding women who have emerged as role models and who make a difference in the lives of the county's more than four million women.

In 1979, Van Hook also became a member of the California Community and Junior College Association's (CCJCA) Commission on Women, which was dedicated to these same priorities.

Van Hook created the New Horizons program so that women could have the same opportunities as men, and since then, she has dedicated her life to providing access to education for everyone, and to helping students succeed.

District awardees are selected by each Los Angeles County Supervisor and Community At-Large Awardees are selected by the Commission for Women in the following five categories: Education, Health, Media/Arts, Business/Labor and Law/Public Safety. Aside from serving as role models, Women of the Year nominees must have worked on behalf of women's issues and made significant contributions to women's equality.

Chancellor Van Hook was selected for this award by Michael D. Antonovich, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Fifth District.

"I'm passionate about California community colleges and the opportunities they afford people to become whomever they want to be," said Chancellor Van Hook. "I have been blessed to be able to work in this amazing system of education and to build bridges for people so they can open doors and realize that they can succeed. What an honor it is to be recognized for my decades of commitment to enhancing opportunities for women--one person at a time."

Throughout Chancellor Van Hook's career, she has mentored women, advocated for the promotion of women and championed women's equity issues, while serving as a first-hand example to her peers and colleagues of just how powerful a role model and visionary leader one woman can be.

Before coming to College of the Canyons, Van Hook helped create the Asilomar Leadership Conference, which provides training for women looking to advance to executive positions in community colleges throughout California, and later established the Association of California Community College Administrators (ACCCA) Mentor Program to further train future community college leaders.

In addition, each semester for the past two decades Van Hook has shared her extensive knowledge and experience by serving as a role model and mentor to women aspiring to become college presidents - with more than 40 of the women she has mentored going on to achieve that goal at a California community college.

Locally, under her leadership, the number of female administrators at College of the Canyons has increased from just two before she was hired in 1988 to 54 percent of all the college's administrators, as she has hired more than 90 percent of all full-time staff since 1988.

She has led the way in adding the Progressive Adult College Education (PACE) program and weekend college, online associate degrees, condensed and fast track courses and a University Center - all designed to open doors and remove barriers, embrace access and help women succeed.

When she arrived at College of the Canyons in 1988, Van Hook became the youngest serving California Community College CEO, and was one of only five women to serve as a district level CEO at the time.

Now, she is the longest seated CEO with more than 21 years of service.

During her tenure, Van Hook has worked to expand the district's revenue base, hire talented faculty and staff, develop plans to expand instructional programs, secure a significant increase in funding for the college, and launch and fund an incredible expansion of the college's facilities.

Passionately committed to higher education and its integral role in economic development, Van Hook has led the way in forging educational and training partnerships with community organizations, government agencies, and private industry to ensure that citizens possess the high-technology skills that will sustain California's economic growth.

A strong believer that people can accomplish more together than they can alone, she has developed a culture at College of the Canyons that encourages the development of partnerships with government, businesses, non-profit agencies and key community stakeholders.

Under her leadership the college has established Academy of the Canyons, the University Center, and opened its doors to high school students through concurrent enrollment.

The business community has also benefited from Van Hook's leadership, with the Employee Training Institute, Center for Advanced Competitive Technologies, Small Business Development Center and Business Incubator all having made an impact in the region.

As the longest seated California community college CEO, Van Hook has received a wide range of honors and awards including the Community College League of California's Five Star Leadership Award, the Association of California Community College Administrators' Harry Buttimer Distinguished Administrator Award, the Presidential Leadership Award from the Network of California Community College Foundations for fundraising leadership, and the California Community College Council for Staff and Organizational Development (CCCCSD) Presidential Leadership Award for her role in creating professional development programs for staff throughout the system.

More recently, Van Hook was awarded the North America Council for Staff, Program and Organizational Development President's Award, and was a Leader of Character Honoree by the Boy Scouts of America.

With full belief, and personal experience, in the leadership capabilities of women, Van Hook is quick to encourage her peers, colleagues, staff and students to strive to reach their full potential through education, professional development and job advancement -demonstrating through her own actions that it can be done.

Her legacy is evident as one walks around the campus, in the people, plans, programs, partnerships and potential her passion and leadership have inspired.

In living by the motto "if you can dream it, you can do it," Van Hook demonstrates the vision, energy, commitment, flexibility and courageous leadership style that inspires women to move forward with their own dreams, and make advancements in their lives and careers.


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