Barbara W. Woodlee, the former president of Kennebec Valley Community College and the first female director of the state technical college system, will be inducted Saturday into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame.

The 26th annual Maine Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Silver Tea is set for 1 p.m. Saturday in Jewett Hall at the University of Maine at Augusta.

Woodlee, 68, served as president of KVCC in Fairfield for 28 years and is the chief academic officer for the Maine Community College System.

She was nominated for the award by John Fitzsimmons, former president of the MCCS. She holds the distinction of being the first woman president at one of the state community colleges.

“It was unexpected and most humbling,” Woodlee said by phone driving back to Maine from her second home in Virginia Beach, Va. “I can’t tell you how surprised and just delighted I am to receive this, but it was very unexpected.”

In his nomination, Fitzsimmons wrote that for more than three decades, Woodlee has worked to remove barriers to higher education for Maine people.


“The majority of her students were women, many of them low income, many of them single mothers, who Barbara believed in and on whose behalf she worked tirelessly,” he said. “By taking on these challenges, while raising four children, she has opened the door to other women to assume leadership positions.”

Woodlee will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Ellen F. Golden, of Woolwich, senior vice president at Coastal Enterprises. The Maine Women’s Hall of Fame was established in 1990 by the Maine Federation of Business and Professional Women to honor women who have made an outstanding contribution to improving the lives for all Maine women.

Sally Ann Parks, chairwoman of the Hall of Fame, said Woodlee’s long and successful career in education has been defined by her commitment to improving the lives of her students, the majority of whom have been women — many of them low-income and many of them single mothers.

“Her goal,” Parks said. “Was to help them achieve their educational goals and build a more secure future for themselves and their families.”

Parks credited Woodlee with improving education for Maine women by designing and building programs in health care and other fields that held the promise of well-paying jobs.

“Many women from throughout Maine jump-started their lives and careers by earning a credential from Kennebec Valley Community College,” he said.


Parks said Woodlee has worked to remove barriers to higher education for people in Maine. He credited her with building partnerships among colleges and working to ease transfers between two- and four-year degree programs, not only for students from KVCC but for students throughout the state community college system.

Woodlee was the first woman director in the state technical college system and the first woman president when the transition was to the community college system.

She began her career in education in the early 1970s teaching adults to read and prepare for employment through the Maine Department of Labor office in Waterville.

“It was extremely rewarding to see people become economically self-sufficient and to see them succeed,” she said. “It was a great start, using those labs in the evening to reach adults who were displaced in the market place and needing to prepare for new careers. We also served youth who hadn’t thought much about post-secondary education.”

Woodlee, of Vassalboro, joined the staff of Kennebec Valley Vocational Technical Institute as director of adult education in 1976, The institute shared space at Waterville Senior High School. The space is now the Mid-Maine Technical Center.

She was named director of the school in 1984.


During the next two-and-a-half decades, while raising four children, she led the institution through its transition from a vocational technical institute to Kennebec Valley Technical College and, in 2003, to Kennebec Valley Community College.

By the fall of 2009, approximately half of KVCC students were 21 or younger. Most were new high school graduates.

“The word ‘college’ in our name helped to eliminate confusion with the secondary technical centers,” Woodlee said. “It helped the public understand the postsecondary nature of our programming and favorably influenced enrollment.”

Students are now attending community colleges as a way to earn credits to transfer to the University of Maine system and other four-year colleges in Maine, Woodlee said. That, in turn, has attracted younger students, many straight out of high school, she said.

The college has evolved steadily from its early days providing basic occupational training and education into a steppingstone for those seeking advanced degrees, Woodlee said.

During her tenure at KVCC, Woodlee oversaw the acquisition of additional land for the campus, the construction of a new library and information technology center, and a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for training in solar heating and cooling system installation to instructors throughout the Northeast.


Woodlee left KVCC in 2012. In her current role since as chief academic officer for the Maine Community College System, Woodlee said she still has work to do before she can think about retiring.

“In my current capacity I’ve been doing a lot of work in partnership with the University of Maine System, working on a number of transfer initiatives and I certainly want to see all of that through,” she said. “I’m very interested, too, in programs that do create access for women in areas that have traditionally been seen as male occupations. I hope that I can bring all the current projects to a close in the next several months.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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