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South Seattle College President Gary Oertli Retiring After 45 Year Career in Education 

Picture of campus

August 21, 2017

After a 45 year career in higher education and nearly a decade at South Seattle College, President Gary Oertli will retire on August 31, 2017. South’s current Vice President of Instruction Peter Lortz has been appointed interim president, starting Sept. 1.

“My nearly ten years at South Seattle College has truly been the highlight of my career,” President Oertli said. “This college has such a strong culture focused on student success and a commitment to creating an environment that honors equity, inclusion and multiculturalism. That culture exists because of our dedicated faculty and staff, and amazing students.”

Oertli became president of South Seattle College in August of 2010, and had served as interim president prior to his permanent appointment. As South’s leader, Oertli encourages staff and faculty members to ask, “What is best for our students?” as the most important factor in any challenging decision. He also advocates for great customer service and creating a family atmosphere at the college, where students know they are supported, appreciated and can ask anyone for help.

During his tenure, the college was recognized for having the largest increase in full-time diverse faculty in the state, saw students recognized nationally for their achievements, and became a U.S. community college leader in implementing a “guided pathways” model for increasing student success. He also worked closely with the South Seattle College Foundation, and through their partnership the 13th Year Promise Scholarship program (providing one year of tuition-free college to high school graduates in surrounding communities) expanded from one high school to four and gave hundreds of students the opportunity to attend college.

“One of my greatest hopes is to see the 13th Year Promise Scholarship expand to all high schools in the Seattle Public Schools system,” Oertli said. “We are striving to create a college-going culture where every first grader in our city will raise their hand with confidence when asked, ‘Who here is going to college?’ ”

A West Seattle native, Oertli is a graduate of Chief Sealth High School who went on to earn his Master of Education degree at the University of Washington, where he later served as Alumni Association president. His higher education career began at Edmonds Community College, where he worked his way up from part-time instructor to interim president. He then became president and CEO of Shoreline Community College before transitioning to the Seattle Colleges District, where he held leadership positions at Seattle Central, North Seattle and South Seattle College.

Peter Lortz, who will serve as interim president from Sept. 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, was appointed by Seattle Colleges Chancellor Shouan Pan. Lortz has served as vice president of instruction at South since January of 2015. Prior to that, he served as interim vice president of instruction, dean of the Math and Sciences Division and as a full- and part-time faculty member at North Seattle College. He obtained a Master of Science degree in Zoology and a Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences. Additionally, he is a graduate of the Washington Executive Leadership Academy and Powers of Leadership Retreat Series.

“I am extremely honored and excited to be taking on this role,” Lortz said. “I am particularly honored to follow in the great path that Gary Oertli has laid before South Seattle College.”

A national search will be conducted in the upcoming academic year to select South Seattle College’s next president.