Dr. Linda Thor, President of Rio Salado College, the largest (in terms of headcount) of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges, was awarded the 2008 Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) “Excellence In Education” award last week at the RMHC U.S. Scholarship Breakfast.
The event raised more than $250,000 to help Arizona high school students attend college, making it one of the largest fundraising programs of its kind in the state.
Each year the “Excellence in Education” award is presented to collegiate educators that have shown exemplary commitment to education, innovation and leadership in the community.
“This collegiate administrator has demonstrated exceptional performance toward improving the quality of teaching and learning for students,” said Nancy Roach, executive director of the Phoenix Ronald McDonald House. “She is a truly outstanding educator whose distinguished leadership is impacting our Arizona youth.”
Thor has served 22 years as a college president and 18 at Rio Salado College in Tempe. Under Thor’s leadership, Rio Salado, known as “the college without walls,” has become a national leader in online education. The innovative college provides uniquely accessible and affordable courses to those who might not otherwise be able to pursue a higher education. Online classes start every Monday and students can take advantage of online tutoring and support services seven days a week while they earn associate degrees and certificates. The college has developed a reputation for innovation and has been profiled in the The New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, University Business, and other major publications.
Over the past 12 years Rio Salado has earned a national reputation for academic excellence and for taking the lead in the explosive growth of eLearning. Nearly 30,000 of its 61,000 students enroll annually in online classes.
RMHC U.S. Scholarship Program offers scholarships to Arizona high school students from communities that face limited access to educational and career opportunities. Since its inception, the program has awarded over 1,000 scholarships to students.
Thor admits she has a deep affinity for the program’s goal to provide Arizona high school seniors scholarships.
Thor wasn’t always college bound. Bored with high school and with a well-paying job as a high school graduate, Thor considered continuing her summer job and not going to college. With prodding from her mother, Thor enrolled with the promise if she didn’t like it she could quit.
“Obviously college was a good match since I have gone to college nearly every day of my life since then,” said Thor.
But it wasn’t easy. Thor’s father was a police officer and the family couldn’t afford the university tuition. But with multiple scholarships, Thor was able to attend college, graduating from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s degree and continuing on to complete her Master’s in Public Administration and earning a doctorate in Education in Community College Administration.
As a college president, Thor relates to many of her students knowing first-hand what it’s like to juggle full-time work, home and family while going to college.
“I told myself if I ever became a college president, I would help working adults who are trying to balance family, work and school,” said Thor. “I have devoted the majority of my career to making a college education convenient and accessible, especially for working adults.”
Rio Salado officially opened in 1978, catering to non-traditional college students. In 1996 it launched its first online courses and currently offers nearly 450 online classes. It is the only community college in the country which offers weekly start dates.
“I am very proud that this year Rio Salado will serve nearly 60,000 students for whom a traditional college education is not an option,” Thor said.
For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to www.riosalado.edu/registration.
To apply for a RMHC U.S. Scholarship, visit www. rmhc.org. Students must be a high school senior; enroll and attend an institution of higher education or a vocational or technical school; reside in central or northern Arizona; be less than 21 years of age and be a legal United States resident. Additionally, the student must submit a complete application and all required documentation by February 16, 2009.
The RMHC U.S. Scholarship Program is supported through the efforts of Arizona businesses and community organizations; neighborhood McDonald’s owners/operators and suppliers; local and national Ronald McDonald House Charities; and the McDonald’s Corporation.