Doug Sly said he liked his job as public information officer at Big Bend Community College, and the reason was the students. “I was kind of inspired by the students, I think. It’s hard not to be,” he said. “To see folks overcome a lot and do very well – it’s very gratifying.” The college staff – the employees in the financial office, tutors, professors – have the potential to change someone’s life every day, he said.
Sly will retire June 30 after 31 years at BBCC. The college’s board of trustees awarded him emeritus status.
Sly said he taught classes as well as working to promote the college during the first dozen years or so. He replaced “a guy named Dave Johnson, who was the publisher of the Grant County Journal (in Ephrata),” Sly said. Along with teaching news writing and communication classes, “I was advisor to the Tumbleweed Times,” the college newspaper at the time.
A lot has changed in communications, but writing well is still a valuable skill, Sly said. “That’s what can get (students) a lot of different jobs, is knowing how to write.” Its usefulness was apparent even before his students graduated. “I told them, ‘use this in your English class, but don’t tell them that’s what you’re doing. You’ll get an A.’”
In 31 years he’s worked for four college presidents and one interim president, he said, and was director of the BBCC Foundation from 1999 to 2011. “Sometimes I was called ‘assistant to the president.’ What that means is you have a new president that needs to be introduced into the community.”
But he started out in the newspaper business, working at the Columbia Basin Herald back in the day. Way back in the day, in technological terms. “I started at the Herald with a manual typewriter,” he said. “It had a bumper sticker on it.”
The change in technology can be illustrated by the construction of the ATEC building, Sly said. College officials were raising money to build it, but the project was in doubt due to an apparently insoluble hitch in the business plan. The cost of providing internet access was going to be astronomical.