Profiles of Success 2017


This award gives special recognition to an individual for his/her significant philanthropic contributions, support for a nonprofit organization, and community development.

Dr. Ernie Lara

Dr. Ernie Lara is the President of Estrella Mountain Community College. His 40 years of experience in education began after military service which allowed him to pursue higher education. As the first in his family to pursue a college degree, he became intimately familiar with the challenges of first-generation college students.

Dr. Lara’s journey in educational leadership has been centered on student development and has included service as a high school counselor, a university veteran’s counselor, faculty and administration at Glendale Community College as well as a founding staff member of Student Services at Paradise Valley and Estrella Mountain Community Colleges.

As president of a majority minority institution, Dr. Lara’s innovative partnerships have created opportunities for his students in a challenging political and economic environment. These partnerships have yielded the Arizona Agribusiness Equine Center, a campus Maker Space and campus workforce development programs. Under Dr. Lara’s leadership, Estrella Mountain Community College has been nominated four times for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence as one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges for demonstrating exceptional student outcomes.

Dr. Lara is the winner of the 2014 West Valley Foundation’s Cesar Chavez Award, the National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development’s Excellence Award in 2003 and the League for Innovation’s District Innovation of the Year award for the One-Stop Student Services Model in 2002.