College of Lake County President Jerry Weber ends his eight-year tenure Friday to take the top job at Bellevue College just outside Seattle.
Weber will perhaps best be remembered for bringing green technology and practices not just to the college's facilities but to its culture, despite serving during a time of great financial hardship.
With Weber's leadership, CLC developed a sustainable master facilities plan with high standards in energy efficiency and alternative energy.
To see that plan in action, one could look to the new Science Building expected to open next year. The three-story, 41,900-square-foot building features 187 solar panels, a 1,500-square-foot green roof that reduces rainwater runoff, and a living wall -- 370 square feet covered with vegetation that cleans, humidifies and oxygenates indoor air.
CLC board Chairman Richard Anderson said Weber's sustainability track record was one of the reasons he was hired eight years ago, a time when the school's flagship campus in Grayslake needed upgrades.
"We hired him as a logical person and a forward-thinking person on sustainable issues and things of that nature," said Anderson, who has been on the school board since 1974. "We thought that the college could use a new direction with sustainable issues."
Among Weber's sustainability accomplishments was replacing outdated and underperforming heating and air-conditioning units with a modern geothermal system.
Under Weber, CLC has been recognized nationally as a sustainability leader. In 2016, the college received the national community college award for sustainability, called the AACC Green Genome Award.
Anderson praised Weber for being able to earn such recognitions for CLC despite the impact of the recession and Illinois' financial problems.
"When we hired him we had state budgets every year," Anderson said. "Then a little after (his hiring) was the financial collapse. Money got tight and under his leadership we cut costs but still moved forward with sustainable efforts."
Sustainability was important to Weber even before he arrived in Lake County. In 2008, when he was president of Kankakee Community College, he co-founded the Illinois Green Energy Network, a sustainability organization that includes all the state's 48 community colleges.
Formed to drive the growth of the green economy in Illinois, the network would go on to bring about $20 million for sustainability projects and programs at community colleges.
"Leaving CLC for me is rather bittersweet, really. They are just wonderful people here," Weber said. "I've lived around Illinois and worked in many places in Illinois ... and I have to say Lake County has all the things to make it, both the College of Lake County and the county itself, a great environment for people to work in, to live in, to raise their families.
"It's a difficult departure because it is such a wonderful place."