William J. Flynn

William J. Flynn

Hall of Fame Class of 2011

William J. Flynn has been an outstanding practitioner and leader in America’s community colleges for 41 years. Highlights include his regular contributions to the Community College Journal and other national publications and his championing of andragogy through producing the North American Conference on the Learning Paradigm. He has made more than 200 presentations at national and regional conferences, served as executive producer for two national teleconferences for the PBS Adult Learning Service, and provided consultant services to dozens of community colleges in areas such as workforce development, staff and professional development, and organizational revitalization.

Flynn has always worked to make the connection between the community and the community college by tirelessly serving on boards of community organizations to promote lifelong learning. Early in his career, he gravitated toward a theme used by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC): “Think Globally, Serve Locally.” 

He demonstrated national leadership as chair of the 26 affiliated councils of the AACC for an unprecedented four-year tenure. He was the first person to lead the group who was not from a degree-based, academic credit-oriented organization, bringing needed attention to the continuing education and lifelong learning mission of America’s community colleges.

During his 12 years as dean at Palomar College, he oversaw adult and community education activities at more than 75 locations in northern San Diego County, including SOCMAR and SOCNAV programs at Camp Pendleton. 

In 1995, two staff members at Palomar College, Robert Barr and John Tagg, published an article in Change titled, “From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education,” which caused a powerful reaction throughout academia. Dean Flynn suggested to the president that the college produce a conference on the concept of the learning paradigm. He was quickly authorized to do so, and from 1997 to 2001, the annual North American Conference on the Learning Paradigm attracted thousands of attendees. In the process, the conferences changed the dialogue in higher education from a teacher-centric approach to learner-centric.

Following his initial retirement from Palomar College, he served eight years as the founding managing director of the National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET). Here, he led a task force to re-engineer the council’s organization, positioning them to be a leader in continuing education and workforce training. As developer and designer of the NCCET Leadership Institute, he contributed to the professional development of the next generation of community college practitioners in continuing education. Additionally, the recommendations contained in his NCCET White Paper on Credentialing and Certification were subsequently adopted by the AACC Workforce Development Commission and Board of Directors as national policy initiatives.

NCCET awarded him their Exemplary National Leadership Award in 1998 and gave him emeritus status at his retirement in 2001. Upon his retirement from NCCET, President and CEO of AACC Dr. George Boggs said, “Under your leadership, the coalition worked smoothly and helped guide and support some of this association’s [AACC] most important programs and activities.”