ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When he was a younger man, Sydney Gunthorpe decided to go to college, the school that one day would be known as CNM.
Today, 23 years later, Gunthorpe is still at Central New Mexico Community College, but he is no longer a student. For the past three years, he has been the college’s vice president for academic affairs.
By the time he got around to going to college, he already had been around the block and around the world. He was born in France. His mother was French and his father was in the U.S. Air Force. The family moved to Albuquerque when he was a toddler.
After high school, Gunthorpe traveled around the Southwest – Nevada, Utah, California – working for a retail firm. After six years, he decided to return to Albuquerque to try his hand at college. No one in his family had ever attended an institution of higher learning and he didn’t know what to expect.
“It was an environment that was totally unknown to me,” he says. “I was first-generation, so I just didn’t know.”
He even told his employer that if he didn’t like college, he would be back.
Today, it’s safe to say, he has never looked back.
Not knowing anything about college life, Gunthorpe-the-student didn’t think about such mundane realities as traffic and parking. So, on the very first day of school, he was late to his very first class. Not knowing any better, he waited outside until class was over, then approached the instructor to apologize.
“He was just the nicest,” Gunthorpe recalls. “He told me not to worry about a thing.”
He also remembers his first math instructor helping him secure a job in a work-study program and the very first person he met at the school, “the guy in the computer lab when I first walked in. He gave me a great welcome.”
Not so long ago, as vice president, Gunthorpe got to present the same computer lab technician with a 25-year service pin.
After graduating from CNM with a liberal arts degree, he attended the University of New Mexico where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in secondary education. That was 1993. In 1997, he received a master’s of arts degree in education.
In 2005, Gunthorpe obtained a doctorate in educational administration from New Mexico State University.
His first job at what was then the Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, or TVI, was back in 1991 as a student employee. After graduation, he began working as a math tutor, then moved into teaching algebra, geometry and computer skills. In 1999, he became a Learning Center supervisor.
Before long, an associate deanship opened and Gunthorpe got the job. He held it for five years, until 2007, when he was promoted to dean of the School of Business & Information Technology. He was named vice president for academic affairs in 2012.
As vice president, he is responsible for the management of six academic schools: Applied Technologies; Business & Information Technology; Communication, Humanities & Social Sciences; Health, Wellness & Public Safety; Math, Science & Engineering; and Adult & General Education.
The vice president of academic affairs also is responsible for all operations related to instructions programs, educational policy, academic planning and academic resources. This last category includes general and technical education; institutional and program accreditation; faculty recruitment, development and diversity; and educational technology, facilities and related academic matters.
All along, he has continued to work as an adjunct faculty member, teaching one math or computer literacy class per semester.
Gunthorpe – a tall, fit man with silver-gray hair and a quick smile – generally works anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day. As for the teaching, he says, “I make time for it,” adding “community college is all about teaching and learning. I love the culture and environment.”
Best of all, he says, are “the pretty amazing people I work with here at CNM.”
They like him too.
“Sydney Gunthorpe embodies so much of what CNM is all about,” said President Kathie Winograd. “He cares a great deal about our students because he was one of them. He knows what it’s like to be a CNM student and he does everything he can to make sure our students have the support they need to be successful.
“Through the years, his rise to vice president of Academic Affairs has been such a joy for me to watch,” Winograd continued. “He’s a true CNM student success story, and our students, faculty, staff and community are fortunate to have him as the leader of CNM’s Academic Affairs Division.”
Gunthorpe scoffs at any suggestion he is being groomed to be president when Winograd leaves.
First of all, he says, she has promised to remain at the helm for another five years. Secondly, he likes to stay in one position himself for at least five years, the first two or three of which are devoted to learning the job.
Before he can even begin to consider his own future possibilities, he says, he and the rest of the administration team will be busy working toward Winograd’s goal of broadening enrollment opportunities. “What are we doing to attract people to CNM?” he asks.
That is what he needs to be thinking about, Gunthorpe says. Education can change lives for the better. But, for whatever reason, many people have never considered going to college.
“We need to open as many doors as possible into CNM,” he says.