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American Education Week: John Grosskopf loves what he does

John Grosskopf has been serving as the eighth president of North Florida Community College (NFCC) since 2009. Originally from Miami, Grosskopf moved to Madison nine years ago. At first, after graduating from the Florida International University in Miami, Grosskopf moved to Monticello to pursue his Masters Degree in English at Florida State University and eventually moved to Madison. Although very successful today, Grosskopf recalls that he wasn't always as motivated as he should be while growing up. Growing up in a poor family, Grosskopf barely graduated high school but managed to pull through. In fact, he recalls not getting really motivated to pursue education until he got into college. He remembers watching how hard his grandfather worked to support him and his sister. His grandfather was retired at the age of 70, but after Grosskopf's parents got divorced, he worked hard as a parking lot attendant to support his grandchildren. “I saw [my grandfather] come home sunburned on one side of his body from working in the booth all day,” said Grosskopf. Seeing his grandfather work so hard inspired him to really take the bull by the horns and get himself an education.

And, growing up in poverty, education was really the only way out, so Grosskopf made sure to make many academic achievements so he could get far with his pursuit of education. Teaching in a small town wasn't Grosskopf's original plan, though. He recalls wanting to teach at an Ivy League school. Because he came from a path that was a worn one, being wealthy and filling big shoes was his view as success. However, he quickly realized that, after becoming an English professor at NFCC in 2001, that his goals had drastically changed. “I realized happiness wasn't all about money,” said Grosskopf. Grosskopf was inspired to become an English professor because he read a lot as a child. “I wanted to teach because I enjoyed talking about writing and the books I liked,” said Grosskopf. He especially enjoyed learning how to teach and understand all of the different learning styles that each of his students had. “I miss teaching very much even if I do positive things as an administrator,” said Grosskopf. Although Grosskopf started out as a professor, he worked his way up the ladder, eventually becoming Dean. Later on, Grosskopf's wife, Patricia, came across a classified ad looking for a vice president for NFCC. Grosskopf took the position as Interim President, and eventually was elected as the president by the Board of Trustees. He did not directly apply as president, but the board saw him as an exceptional candidate for the job.

“I was honored to get [that position],” said Grosskopf. “It's been a lot of fun doing it.” Grosskopf's favorite part of being president of NFCC is serving the people. Grosskopf has experienced the same struggles that many college students face today, so he feels he understands his students and goes out of his way to get them to where they need to be to reach success. Grosskopf makes sure he has staff that really care about their students; whenever a professor receives bad evaluations by their students, Grosskopf makes sure to take that seriously, as he believes students should get quality education. While some colleges do not provide the preparation that community colleges need when they move on to university, Grosskopf makes sure NFCC takes care of all of that while also ensuring tuition is affordable. Some of his main goals for the college have already been achieved, but Grosskopf is always working towards making the college better. He specifically follows the standards of the first president of NFCC, James J. Gardener and stays up-to-date with technology to bring the college to its best. Grosskopf rid the inferiority that surrounded the college when he first started and broke the belief that a small college can't be successful.

“We're small and unassuming, but we have to dream big,” said Grosskopf. Grosskopf has helped the college really push aside that belief, as NFCC was named number two among “America's Best Community Colleges” by Washington Monthly in 2013. Along with his achievements as a president, Grosskopf also served as Director of Teaching and Learning, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer at NFCC before his presidency. He has also presented numerous educational presentations throughout the United States and abroad and is a notable speaker. As an administrative speaker, Grosskopf specifically spoke about the possibilities out there for college students. “A lot of folks don't know what is out there,” said Grosskopf. “Somebody needs to show them.” Grosskopf gets excited about telling students what they can get to afford college. Although his past self had a much different plan for the future, Grosskopf feels very happy to be where he is. He feels he created a higher image of himself because he started off in a bad state. He feels, if his past self looked forward at what he has become today, he would be proud.

“It's all about doing good for others,” said Grosskopf. He also believes his grandfather would also be proud of him. “[My grandfather] wanted me to embrace helping others and always used to say 'do good',” said Grosskopf. Outside of work, Grosskopf loves spending time with his family. He and his wife have been married for 25 years and have five children, Jonathon, Karl, Emily, Rebecca and Joseph.

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