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Green River chief says goodbye to Enumclaw

Rich Rutkowski accepted a ceremonial key to the city of Enumclaw, was handed a book of quotations and found himself on the receiving end of mountains of praise last week during a breakfast session at the Enumclaw branch of Green River Community College.

GRCC puts on a community affair once a year, but this time was different, as the subject was the pending retirement of the longtime president.

During his 27-year tenure at Green River – nearly all as president – Rutkowski guided many initiatives, but none as important to Enumclaw as the development of a downtown branch in a former bank building.

Former Mayor George Rossman stood before the morning assembly and shared that “our city was looking to find its way” during the early part of the 1990s. A never-say-die community effort was responsible for GRCC purchasing the KeyBank building on Griffin Avenue in 1993 and, by 1996, the college was offering classes to an initial enrollment of 700 students.

Having a college presence in town “gave us a stature we never had before,” Rossman said.

Current Mayor Liz Reynolds outlined GRCC’s history in Enumclaw and honed in on Rutkowski’s role in the process.

“Through your vision and tenacity, the dream of providing students with comprehensive and quality education services, right where they live, became a reality,” she said.

Marv Nelson, a longtime GRCC instructor, said his president has “the uncanny ability to ask the penetrating questions that get to the heart of the issue.”

Enumclaw Super-intendent Mike Nelson pointed to Rutkowski’s many years in the president’s office and noted, “that says something about a leader, a courageous leader with a vision,” before handing over a copy of “Happily Grateful.”

In his brief comments, Rutkowski recalled how the Enumclaw community rallied to make a branch campus a reality.

“In this community there was a great hunger for higher education,” he said, singling out the tireless efforts of the late Phil Biege.

In a final comment, Rutkowski promised he would make one final appearance in Enumclaw, stopping by to introduce his replacement. A new president was selected May 24.

Click here for the full story on the new president:

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