BARSTOW• Directors, deans and students at Barstow Community College stepped into the campus' administrative conference room Wednesday afternoon to say goodbye to outgoing President Dr. Thom Armstrong.

Armstrong, the college's president since the 2009 school year, retires Friday after nearly five years at BCC and more than 30 years in higher education.

Bill Studt will take the helm as interim president.

"We were fortunate enough to have Dr. Armstrong at a time when there were huge economic challenges (facing the college)," said Dr. Ted Baca, BCC Board of Trustees member. "We were able to work closely as a team to provide major leadership where management by crisis was very tempting."

The economic challenges Baca speaks of includes a decline in state funding which began in 2008, when Armstrong joined BCC as the interim vice president of academic affairs and acting vice president of student services.

Roughly half a million would-be students within the community college system in California suffered because of it — shut out from attending school due to reductions in class sections.

The passage of proposition 30 in November — which increased personal income tax on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years and increased sales and use tax by one-quarter of a cent for four years — prevented BCC from having to look at additional cost-containing options such as staff reductions and furloughs, Armstrong said at the time.

During his tenure, Armstrong worked to forge the college's partnership with Excelsior public charter schools and oversaw implementations of the first AA-T and AS-T transfer degrees and the leasing of the building on State Street for the Career Technical Institute.

"He has always put Barstow College first," said BCC Board of Trustees Vice President Marcia Zableckis. "His focus is to make all students successful and we'll miss him."

Studt, who begins his official first day Friday, has served in several interim positions since his retirement in 2006, including vice president of human resources at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, president of Lassen Community College in Susanville and chancellor of the Ventura Community College District.

"It's been a great run," Armstrong said, "and I wish the college well."

Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at