Marilyn McGahan to be honored with MPCC President’s Award

marilyn mcgahan
Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Marilyn McGahan has been chosen to receive the 2024 President’s Award from Mid-Plains Community College.

McGahan said she was “surprised, humbled and honored” by the selection. She will be recognized at the college’s commencement ceremony in North Platte May 10.

“How rewarding it is to realize I have been part of working with many others to provide outstanding opportunities for higher education and workforce training in our part of the country,” McGahan said. “We have all had a part in the continued growth and success of Mid-Plains Community College and all those associated with it.”

The early days

McGahan has a longstanding relationship with the college and with education in general. She and her husband Bill moved to North Platte in 1966 to take teaching jobs at the North Platte Catholic Schools. He taught music and English, and Marilyn taught business education.

By 1971, the couple had four children, and Marilyn was no longer working full-time. Instead, she took a job as an adjunct instructor for the college that would eventually become MPCC.

“I started out teaching an accounting class and a typing class as a result of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. As long as the CETA program existed, I had a job,” Marilyn said.

She and Bill had their fifth and last child in 1972, and two years later, Marilyn was hired as a full-time business instructor at the college – leading to double duty as a busy mother and career woman with a newly ignited passion for higher education.

Working her way up

marilyn mcgahan bw

Marilyn McGahan

Driven to improve her skills, Marilyn went on to earn a Master of Arts Degree in Education, Vocational and Technical Education and Business from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1977 before completing additional postgraduate work at UNK, Fort Hays State University and Chadron State College.

Marilyn took on the role of business division chair for MPCC’s campuses in North Platte in 1997 while continuing to maintain a full teaching load. By 2000, she was overseeing the business division for all Mid-Plains campuses.

When the vice president job became available in North Platte in 2003, Marilyn applied for it and was hired. She didn’t have a doctorate at the time – a preferred qualification for the position. However, she did have extensive leadership experience from being part of the local hospital board, the North Platte Development Corporation board and various professional education organizations.

“Those kinds of things weighed heavily,” said Marilyn. “Once I got the job, I took a 15-credit hour graduate program from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln on community college leadership. It was online and extremely helpful.”

One of her greatest accomplishments during her tenure at MPCC, was the facilitation of the planning and construction of a new Health and Science Center on South Campus. The project started in the ’90s and became a reality in 2012.

Other highlights included the implementation of distance learning and leading a group of auto body and automotive technology students on a trip to North Lindsey College in Scunthorpe, England as part of an exchange program.

Her professionalism and dedication didn’t go unnoticed. The following are some of the many awards Marilyn was honored with over the years:

  • Nebraska State Department of Education Elaine Stuhr, Leadership and Advocacy Lifetime Achievement Award
  • University of Nebraska at Kearney Outstanding Alumni Award
  • Phi Theta Kappa Michael Bennett Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Nebraska Community College Association Outstanding Faculty Member Award
  • Nebraska State Business Education Association and Delta Pi Epsilon Service Awards
  • Nebraska State Business Education Association, Mountain-Plains Business Education Association, Nebraska Vocational Association and Region V Vocational Association Outstanding Postsecondary Faculty awards
  • North Platte Chamber Woman of Achievement in Education Award
  • NISOD Excellence in Teaching Award (twice)
  • Admiral in the Nebraska Navy recognition
  • City of North Platte Cody Scout Award
  • Nebraska Planning and Zoning Association 2022 Outstanding Appointed Official

“I believe the best possible education and workforce training opportunities should be available to all who want to participate,” Marilyn said. “I also believe those two things are vital for the growth of every community, regardless of the size or location. I have had the opportunity to work with many others who believe the same and are willing to work to make it happen.”

Maintaining a presence

Marilyn retired in August of 2011. While she no longer has an office at the college, she remains a familiar face at MPCC events and continues to be involved in its upward momentum.

Some of the many ways she has stayed connected since retirement have included participating in strategic planning sessions, serving as keynote speaker for the Expanding Your Horizons Conference, reviewing an accreditation report for the Higher Learning Commission, updating alumni records for the Office of Institutional Advancement and teaching an online Medical Terminology class.

Marilyn also recently made the decision to include the NPCC Foundation in her will. Her hope is that the bequest will help the college continue to grow and provide additional opportunities for students to further their education – whether that’s through scholarships or the addition of new resources or programs.

In 2016, a tree was planted in Marilyn’s honor outside the Health and Science Center as a visual reminder of the impact she has had and the difference she has made in the lives of countless students.