JCC’s Dunkirk leader leaves legacy

It is a time of transition for Jamestown Community College. Not only is the Gregory DeCinque presidential era concluding after 19 years, but the leader at the Dunkirk site also will be retiring at the end of this month.

Frank Porpiglia, director of the JCC North County Center, will be completing his 25-year tenure Thursday. His service to the college – and this community – is one to be applauded when you consider how far the Dunkirk campus has come.

When Porpiglia began in his current role in 1988, Jamestown Community College did not exist on Bennett Road. Instead, he was working out of makeshift offices in Dunkirk High School and at the former Dunkirk Chamber of Commerce location, which is now occupied by the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation on Lake Shore Drive West.

From those humble beginnings, the need for the current site arose.

“I was privileged to be the first person in this position and was able to bring a presence of JCC to the North County through establishing facilities, staff, faculty, programs and community connections,” he said during an interview in his office this week. “The success of the campus is a result of many parts working together. We’ve had great support from the main campus administration, staff and faculty. I’ve been blessed with a local staff and faculty that works together and serves this community well. This community has also been supportive and has embraced our presence.”

It was not an easy road.

As many already know, the north-south county divide hindered enrollment growth for JCC in Dunkirk-Fredonia area. Under Porpiglia’s term, the college became a larger player when it purchased the building operated by Chautauqua Opportunities Inc., the former St. Mary’s School for the Deaf.

Always one to give credit where it is due, Porpiglia praised Bob Barber and the late Ted Smith as helping see through the JCC North site. In 1994, when the college hired DeCinque, the new campus was celebrated and officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony within the year.

But the college was not finished.

In 1999, it invested in the neighboring building, which also houses the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. “We focus on serving our students, businesses and community-based organizations with their educational and training needs,” Porpiglia said. “JCC’s partnership with the greater community contributes to the social and intellectual improvement, economic development and cultural enrichment of the areas we serve.”

Porpiglia takes pride in the college’s growth, including the Cattaraugus County site, as well as the students who have come through the doors through the years. He also praises the leadership of DeCinque as well as John Sayegh, vice president and dean of JCC who handles the continuing education program.

Most of all, however, he will miss the team atmosphere that comes with being the director.

“JCC is truly a quality institution, one that I’m proud to be a part of,” Porpiglia said. “The people who work here are like family. They also are very dedicated to the college’s mission and that is providing quality educational services to our local communities.”

As for the future, Porpiglia is happy to assist in the transition for his replacement, who has yet to be named.

“God has blessed me with a great position,” he said. “Going to work every day has been a joy. Changing lives through education has been very rewarding for me because it has lifelong effects.”

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.