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Dr. Linda Thor, Chancellor Emeritus, Foothill-De Anza Community College DistrictDr. Linda Thor, chancellor emeritus of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, was recently honored with the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies' (WCET) top award recognizing lifetime contributions to the field.

WCET presented Dr. Thor with the 2015 Richard Jonsen Award at its 27th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colo., on Nov. 11. The award is given annually to a WCET member whose career has been committed to improving postsecondary educational programs and services through innovative uses of technology as well as for exceptional service to WCET.

A nationally recognized innovator in education, Dr. Thor was the sixth chancellor since the Foothill-De Anza district’s founding in 1957. During her tenure, the college district won the bid to lead the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI), a $57 million effort involving California’s 113 community colleges, became one of 15 districts to pilot the community college baccalaureate degree, and received nine acres from the federal government in a public benefit conveyance to build a new education center.

“Her understanding, creativity and knowledge both about students and how to make online learning work make her a visionary in our world of technology-enhanced learning,” said Patricia James, Executive Director of the OEI. “And her sense of humor and down-to-earth thinking are characteristics we all should emulate!”

WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET)Commitment To Quality Online Education

Exuding the principles espoused in the award, Dr. Thor has served the higher education community for more than 40 years with a pioneering and visionary spirit that has supported success for many students, many of whom might not have had a pathway without the opportunities Dr. Thor set in place.

Dr. Thor served for nearly 20 years as president of Rio Salado College in Tempe, Ariz. Rio Salado is known for effectively using technology to serve working adults through distance education, offering customized degree and certificate programs for corporations and government, and providing accelerated learning programs, such as dual enrollment for ambitious high school students. During her tenure enrollment increased 252 percent.

“Linda saw what was possible with online learning and even in the face of many obstacles led Rio Salado College into this new learning modality,” said Dr. Chris Bustamante, President of Rio Salado College. “It is because of Linda’s courageous perseverance and commitment to making sure online students have quality services that Rio Salado is now able to serve more than 56,000 students—nearly 30,000 online students—as a single community college.”

Dr. Thor has been a long-time supporter and friend of WCET. She served on the Executive Council for two terms and more recently was appointed by California Governor Brown to the WICHE Commission and served on the Commission committee to which WCET reports.

The Richard Jonsen Award is named in honor of the WICHE Executive Director who nurtured the idea of a technology cooperative and founded WCET in 1989.

About WCET

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) is the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced higher education. WCET is widely recognized as one of the most informative, reliable and forward-thinking organizations regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education. More information about WCET’s institutional membership resources and services can be found on WCET’s website at

Cali Morrison is the Manager of Communications for WCET