New Butte prez has vast résumé

Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg

Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg

From high-school teacher to paramedic to stockbroker, Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg is a Jill-of-all-trades. Now, she’ll hold the top position at Butte Community College.

The Butte-Glenn Community College District Board of Trustees selected Van Der Ploeg from more than 30 qualified applicants, who were narrowed down to three in recent weeks. She starts work Aug. 1.

“I’m planning to stay for a while,” Van Der Ploeg said cheerfully in a telephone interview from Colorado.

She’ll have big shoes to fill with the legacy of Sandy Acebo, the well-liked and community-friendly president of almost five years who retired to spend more time with her family.

“This lady’s going to be just as good,” promised Tom McLaughlin, president of the Board of Trustees.

Van Der Ploeg, 50, comes with a huge list of accomplishments and has served on several boards and won awards. Most recently, she taught classes and owned a consulting firm. “I love working with the community,” she added.

She had been biding her time waiting for the perfect job when she heard about the Butte opening. “Folks had a lot of really good things to say about the college,” she said, adding that the idea of an agricultural area combined with a college town similar to her Colorado home pleased her. “I was pretty much sold after my first interview.”

Van Der Ploeg has led several colleges from Connecticut to Washington. While president of Spokane Falls Community College, she made headlines in 2001 after being demoted by its chancellor after the two clashed in a public meeting over budget issues. Faculty members leaped to her defense, Van Der Ploeg ended up winning a $180,000 settlement, and the chancellor himself was later fired. From that experience, she said, “I learned that you have to do the right thing and know what your values are.”

At Butte, she’ll face a budget that has been chiseled away at the state level. She has a lot of lobbying experience, however, and sees the situation as both a disappointment and a challenge.

Van Der Ploeg will be earning about $145,000 a year. Acebo had started at about $114,500 back in 1998 and now makes $147,120.