Nearly two decades ago, Gene Bilodeau and his family were new to the city of Craig. He had just accepted a position with Colorado Northwestern Community College, moving from a job with Casper (Wyo.) College. Back then, CNCC’s main building on the Craig campus was still the facility known as the Bell Tower and the husband and father of two was looking to help the college expand while integrating himself and his family into the community.
Now, with the school thriving and his kids grown, he’s looking to start the next chapter of his life, and he may have found it in a whole different state.
Before the end of the year, Bilodeau will say farewell to the people of Craig as he takes on a new job as executive director for the University Center in Rapid City, S.D. The University Center is a partnership hub for six South Dakota colleges including Black Hills State University, Dakota State University, Northern State University, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, South Dakota State University and University of South Dakota.
Bilodeau first applied for the position last month, interviewing and receiving the job offer last week.
“After having been with CNCC for so long, I’ve done so much with them, I was just looking for a new professional challenge,” he said. “I wanted to stay in higher education, and the more I looked into this position, the more I thought it would be of definite interest to me.”
The decision required a lot of soul-searching.
“Leaving Craig, that’s going to be the hardest part,” he said.
Bilodeau first came to Craig in 1994 with wife Nancy and sons Jacob, 26, and Tucker, 24. Then hired as the associate dean of student services, he became the vice president of the Craig campus in 2009.
CNCC will host a reception honoring Bilodeau's service to CNCC and to the Craig and Moffat County community within the coming weeks, prior to his move in mid-December.
In a press release, CNCC President Russell George congratulated Bilodeau on his latest career change, noting his VP’s years of distinction.
“He leaves a strong legacy and will always be seen as a treasured friend of CNCC,” George said.
George also said Bilodeau was instrumental in the process of completing the long-term project of building a new site for the Craig campus. The two shared the honor of the ceremonial ribbon-cutting when the buildings opened in summer 2011.
Bilodeau said the new campus was a triumph for him and the rest of CNCC, especially since the proposal was practically a pipe dream at the time of his initial hiring. Just as important to him has been the building of a dynamic between the school and the people of Craig and Moffat County, truly making it worthy of the name “community college.”
“That’s been one of the things I’m most proud of is creating a partnership with the region and to see that be a great relationship,” he said. “It’s certainly been one of our hallmarks.”
Community is a major part of Bilodeau’s life outside work as well. A list of all the local groups and activities he has devoted his time to includes Rotary Club, Craig/Moffat Development Partnership, youth soccer coach and plenty more.
Bilodeau has also served on the Craig City Council since 2007. Once he officially resigns in December, the council will seek a replacement, though the method has yet to be determined.
Fellow Councilor Ray Beck said the news of Bilodeau’s departure was “bittersweet” for him.
“Gene’s been a real asset to this community, someone who always gives 110 percent,” Beck said. “I’ve enjoyed working with him, and I have a lot of respect for him. He will be missed.”
Among the things Bilodeau will miss the most are the people of Northwest Colorado and the outdoors activities afforded to the natives of the area, and though hobbies like fly-fishing, snowboarding and mountain-biking won’t be entirely unavailable in South Dakota, it will be a little different for him.
“They have the Black Hills, but they’re not the same as the Rocky Mountains,” he said.
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.