Presidential finalist profile: David Viar—lawyer and CEO

Presidential finalist profile: David Viar—lawyer and CEO

David Viar, president of American River College

Erick Pirayesh, Staff Writer

David Viar, who would not give The Channels his age, is a native of Illinois. He has served as the president of American River College since 2005.

Viar attended Western Illinois University and went on to receive his doctorate in law from Drake University law school, Des Moines, Idaho.

He went served 15 years as the chief executive officer of the nonprofit Community College League of California, an organization that worked to promote shared governance.

“I feel that my skills and talents of working with governing boards, and in bringing people together to serve the community, can be very well served at Santa Barbara.”

He said that finding adequate funding is the number one issue California Community Colleges face and that a number of tough decisions must be made.

“It’s about helping students both have access to the programs they need as well as to successfully complete them,” he said.

“No matter how many ways we look at it, it still comes down to how much money you have available.”

Recalling his experiences with the Community College League of California, Viar said he believes in shared governance and he strives to work with as many people as possible to carry out those established principles.

“Our decisions are better when they are made with the very valuable input of the faculty, staff, students, community, and people affected.”

When he heard that the City College Board of Trustees had been given a warning by the accreditation commission Viar said his initial reaction was that it was “unfortunate.”

“It often occurs that the accrediting commission, when trying to look at local issues, might not always have the full picture,” he said.

Viar said he is well aware of the large percentage of international students at City College. He said he believes in the diversity they help bring to the institution, but that serving the local community remains top priority.

“I certainly believe in the values of bringing individuals in throughout the world,” he said. “It adds a great dynamic to our local community colleges.

“One must balance how much revenue you can bring in, how many students you can find seats for, and how that can best help to serve the local community.”

While Viar said he knows that with the current budget crisis, avoiding cuts to important programs is inevitable, he said it’s important to spread those cuts out to keep students options open.

“Looking at how we can cut back a little bit in all the areas in which we operate so that our students are not restricted in their choices,” Viar said. “There’s a lot of different ways to look at it and none of them are easy and they require a lot of discussion.”

Viar cited his favorite U.S president Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy of leadership as a prime example of successful shared governance.

“Bring all of the people to the table and even if they have disagreements with you that’s where you talk them through and identify your common interests, and from there come to solutions.”

When it comes to his own college experience, Viar said he lived at home and commuted to school not unlike many City College students.

“I feel like that has given me a real sense of what many of our students face in being at home and going to campus.”

Viar said that being on his university’s swim team and also a part of its Union Board helped him feel more a part of campus life.

“Those are the things I remember; connecting with fellow students and receiving that support you needed, beyond the home,” he said. “And I think that’s something we want to continue to work for at our Community Colleges.”

Viar, a member of the Presbyterian Church, said he is happy to spend his spare time gardening and working outdoors with his wife, who he has been with for more than 35 years. Together they have one son, Justin Viar, who is the director of the After Hour’s series on cracked.com, a comedy based website.