photo of Dr. DeRionne Pollard

Montgomery College President Named ‘Woman of Distinction’

photo of Dr. DeRionne Pollard

Dr. DeRionne Pollard

Dr. DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College, will be recognized as a 2014 Women of Distinction Award recipient by the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in a ceremony on June 5.

A graduate of the Leadership Montgomery program, Pollard was named its Outstanding Leader for 2013.

She has been included in Washingtonian Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women, Bethesda Magazine’s 50 Most Fascinating People, Places, and Things, and The Daily Record’s Influential Marylanders list. Pollard has also received the Washington Business Journal’s Minority Business Leader Award.

Close to 1,000 students will attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders held June 5–7 at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Now in its 29th year, the annual event is co-hosted by the American Association of University Women and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

On June 5 at 4:30 p.m., Chelsea Clinton will deliver remarks followed by speeches from the conference’s 2014 Women of Distinction.

In addition to Pollard, this year’s honorees are trailblazing journalist and author Hattie Kauffman, entrepreneur Lily Liu, former astronaut Pamela Ann Melroy, and founder and president of Smith & Company Judy Smith who was the inspiration behind the show Scandal.

We interviewed Pollard about the honor and how she is inspired in her job everyday:

What does it mean to you to be honored as a NCCWSL woman of distinction?

“I am quite honored to be amongst such an impressive group of honorees – a television anchor, a top entrepreneur under 30, an astronaut, and the real-life fixer who is the inspiration for Scandal’s Olivia Pope! What also makes this honor so rewarding is that it celebrates women who serve as role models to student leaders of today. My life’s work has been focused on empowering students to change their lives, and to be honored for that at an event with the same purpose is powerful and meaningful.”

What’s your advice for future leaders?

“My advice for future leaders is to not be afraid to try, even if it doesn’t work out. You never know how that attempt will influence and shape your life and your future successes. It is easy as a leader to listen to the naysayers and become paralyzed by the fear of change. But it is only by pushing our own boundaries, and the boundaries of the institutions we serve, that we become the best, and truest, version of ourselves.”

What’s your hope for your speech and for the event?

“I hope that the women in the audience become inspired to embrace who they are and recognize who has helped shape who they are and who they will become. I hope they embrace the notion that only by embracing your own movement can you inspire others to do the same.”

Do you have a philosophy by which you live?

“Too many to name! But one of my favorite philosophies is the South African philosophy called ubuntu. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains that the fundamental tenant of ubuntu is: ‘[i]f I diminish you, I diminish myself.’ The essence of being human centers on how we relate to other people, and our differences are meant to be embraced. The archbishop has said, ‘all belong: gay, lesbian, so-called straight. All, all are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go.’ I live by the philosophy and am so grateful to work for a community college that truly walks the walk as the Ellis Island of higher education.”

Who is the one person that helped you get to where you are today?

“My father. As I share in my remarks, my mother died when I was four years old. When you lose your mother at such a young age, and you have a loving dad in your life, you get some amazing fathering. He took my sister Dawne and me to get our hair done every two weeks, taught us to always wear earrings, match our purses with our shoes, and even practice good posture. He raised two women who understood themselves and their potential, lived with cautious fearlessness, and knew they could be anything they wanted to be.”

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Valerie Bonk

About Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media (MCM).


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