Dr. Brent Gregory’s goal was never to be just a college president. His goal was to be the president of East Central Community College.
Yesterday, the Nanih Waiya native and ECCC alumnus officially achieved that goal as he walked into the Arno Vincent Administration Building on the campus in Decatur as the institution’s ninth president.
Gregory, who previously served as vice president for student affairs at Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, replaced Dr. Billy Stewart, the college’s eighth president who retired after eight years in office.
Gregory’s selection as ECCC’s ninth president was made at the March 2020 meeting of the college’s Board of Trustees.
“I started my career at East Central and now 20 years later I’ve come full circle,” said Gregory, who began his career in higher education as director of student life at ECCC in 2000. “I’ve been fortunate through my experiences at Southwest Mississippi and Mississippi Delta community colleges to touch every aspect of campus operations from administration to instruction to student affairs to workforce education to career and technical education to distance learning. All of the knowledge I’ve gathered and the experiences I’ve been through have been so that I could one day have the opportunity to lead this great institution.
“This has been a culmination of a lot of years of hard work and sacrifice, by me and my family. I can tell you that no one will love this college more than I do. No one will work harder. I’m fortunate that the people who work here love this place as much as I do—people who are not just here for a paycheck, but here because they want to see the college continue to move forward under the foundation that has been set by those who came before us.”
In addition to reacquainting himself with his alma mater and the people who work there, Gregory said he would immediately begin the process of developing a new strategic plan for the college. ECCC’s current strategic plan, 2020 Vision, was implemented in 2013 and guides the college through the current year.
“East Central Community College is in great shape,” said Gregory. “We have an opportunity to continue to move forward because of the foundation laid in recent years by former presidents Dr. Eddie Smith, Dr. Phil Sutphin, and the past eight years with Dr. Billy Stewart and the current 2020 Vision strategic plan. There are many institutions where new presidents might have to address major issues from day one, but ECCC is in great shape and we are ready to move forward.
“And it will begin with the people. We will work together in a yearlong process to determine where we need to go next as a college. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees, and individuals from across our five-county district will be involved in the new strategic planning process. We won’t do this overnight. I want input and buy-in from everyone in the community who wants to participate. We will ask what they need and where they want us to be, and then together we will develop our next strategic plan from that process.”
Gregory said that continuing the academic excellence that has made ECCC the state leader for three straight years, and five out of the past seven, in graduates earning the highest cumulative grade-point average at baccalaureate graduation at four-year public universities in Mississippi will be a necessary part of a new strategic plan. But he also wants to build the college’s workforce development and career and technical education programs to provide employees for existing industry and to create new jobs across the five-county district of Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott, and Winston counties.
“We want to give our students the best opportunities available in Career and Technical Education so that they get well-paying jobs when they graduate and hopefully stay in our district to work,” he explained. “We also want to prepare graduates who want to go out and start their own companies in the district and thus create jobs for others. It’s a great opportunity when people come from outside the district and establish a business, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. East Central can prepare the people who will create the next line of industry in our district.
“Workforce development is also going to be a big part of the role ECCC takes in our counties. We will evaluate where we are and where we need to be so that we are helping to create jobs in the district and an environment conducive to both business and industry and people remaining in this area to work.
“No one, not even our counties, can stand alone. We must work as a group. We will do all of this together. We are stronger as one than we are is individual parts.”
Gregory had been vice president for student services at Southwest Mississippi Community College since 2017, where he was Title IX coordinator and supervised the offices of counseling and recruiting, financial aid, campus housing, campus police, college publications, disability services, and student activities, as well as all judicial affairs of the institution.
Prior to that he served seven years as associate vice president for enrollment management at Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead, where he was the college registrar and supervised the offices of admissions, counseling and recruiting, financial aid, distance learning and online education, dual enrollment, disability services, and work based learning, as well as the Career Center, Center of Learning and Tutoring Services, and library.
He also has been an economics instructor, Workforce Investment Act (WIA) coordinator, and director of student life at ECCC, and an instructor and coach for the Louisville Municipal School District.
After receiving his associate degree from ECCC in 1996, Gregory earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and master’s degree in workforce training and development from the University of Southern Mississippi and his doctorate in community college leadership from Mississippi State University.
He and his wife, the former Christi Lee, will reside in the President’s Home on the ECCC campus in Decatur with their two daughters, McKinley and Mary Lee. Christi Gregory, a native of Philadelphia and a 1995 ECCC graduate, is a counselor at Newton County Elementary School.