As New York native Diane Call retires from over four decades of work at Bayside‘s Queensborough Community College this summer, she remembers the value her parents placed on higher education. Call, like so many of the students who attend the school at Cloverdale Boulevard and 56th Avenue, was a first-generation college student.
“[My parents] instilled in me that education was important from when I was little,” Call told QNS. “And I see that, and I think that is what will truly will keep this country great: to have people who are knowledgeable and can contribute.”
During her career at the community college, Call held virtually every position imaginable before ascending to the role of president in January 2013. She holds a doctor of education degree in college and university administration, a master’s degree in community college administration and a second master’s degree in student personnel administration, all earned from Teachers College, Columbia University.
It was during Call’s time as a graduate student that she was assigned to work as an unpaid intern at Queensborough.
“I had a great opportunity to experience community college in higher education, and I was very fortunate, because they did offer me a job after the internship,” she said.
Call gained the rank of full professor in 1994 after having acquired tenure in 1978. From there, she worked in various administrative and finance roles and eventually led the Academic Affairs Division as Provost before being offered the position of president in 2013.
“I tell people, especially young people: ‘Whatever you do, no matter what your particular role is, do it really well, because people are noticing,'” she said. “I was fortunate.”
At the start of her role as president, Call’s greatest goal was to increase the number of full-time faculty — “the heart of the institution.” Today, there are more than 400 full-time faculty members and 83 percent of the college’s faculty hold terminal degrees: three times the national average for community colleges.
“I understood that the investment in new faculty was very important to our students,” she said. “It really was a passion for me. My dissertation was on faculty development, so I was always attuned to that.”
Enrollment is also at record highs, approaching 16,000 students each year, Call also noted.
“Our students body and its demographics reflect Queens,” she said. “So we’re talking about a diverse student body. We’re talking about first generation students. We’re talking about people of different cultures and nationalities. And for them to have the opportunity to achieve whatever they wanted to, I felt we needed to give them a strong foundation here. We are essentially the first two years of a university.”
To create a more seamless transition from Queensborough to other City Universities of New York, Call and administrators formed a dual-joint degree program in disciplines including nursing, education and criminal justice. The school also offers a number of career and certificate programs.
The academic leader is also responsible for establishing the school’s “Milestone Scholarships,” which supply aid to students seeking to take classes during summer or winter sessions to achieve graduation.
Call is proud to have seen numerous capital projects come to fruition at the school over the years, including renovations to the school’s Art Gallery, the establishment of the Kupferberg Holocaust Center, and a massive electrical upgrade to bring technology into each classroom. The school is also in the middle of a two-phase project that will bring state-of-the-art renovations to the Science Atrium.
“I became aware that it was important to have a strong environment so that people felt comfortable, respected and could learn in a place that wasn’t in disrepair,” she said. “So we put a lot of focus into maintaining the campus facilities as you see them now.”
A seemingly small victory in the early 2000s also had a big impact on the school community. Call was heavily involved in the school’s fight to bring a Q27 bus stop to the campus to make transportation easier.
“For years, there was no bus service here … We tried and tried and tried,” she said. “And finally, it was actually [Queens Borough President] Helen Marshall who helped us out by calling [the school and] the MTA together and said, ‘We’re not leaving the room until we settle this.'”
Along with over 2,300 students, Call capped her career at the June 1, 2018, commencement, which she called “the most glorious day on campus.”
“To be side by side with them on that day was particularly wonderful,” she said. “They’re moving on, so it was kind of like we were doing that together … It was very special.”
In retirement, Call promises to remain a staunch proponent for education.
“I believe very strongly in civic engagement. I think it’s something we all owe our communities, especially those who had the opportunity to receive an education, have a great job, et cetera,” she said. “I will always be an advocate for Queensborough, certainly, but also for community colleges and for education. It is a saving grace.”