When Collette Mercier was hired to do public relations for the Ogden-Weber Tech College (then the Area Vocational Center) she never dreamed it would become her dream job. On June 30, she retired as a beloved President and mentor, and the business community is marked by her influence in profound ways. After 32 years of her service, the campus sparkles with both warmth and the meticulous attention to detail that have been hallmarks of her service. During her time, she has been a fierce advocate for the need for young people to get technical education and enter the high-paying jobs in northern Utah. Any businessperson could learn from her style.
On June 9, 2017, Governor Gary Herbert and Dave Woolstenhulme honored Mercier's work and non-ego style of leadership. Woolstenhulme currently serves as Commissioner of Technical Education for the Utah System of Technical Colleges (formerly UCAT) and he said this, "Look around the health building and you will see the mark of Collette’s high standards everywhere. She doesn’t apologize for expecting people’s best work.” He then added, “As beautiful as this campus is, her greatest achievement is visible in the caliber of her staff. They have risen to the quality she expects and they love her for caring about them. If you ask around, nobody doubts that Collette genuinely cares about people. She is the real deal.”
Woolstenhulme’s remarks received a spontaneous standing ovation by system employees from around the state.
One phrase that Mercier’s is remembered for saying is, "No one ever rose to low expectations," and her standards helped elevate the perception of technical education. Local employers have advocated for this for years because of the talent shortage in jobs requiring technical skills.
Governor Gary Herbert also thanked Mercier for being a “good example to the rest of us of service and helping to improve people’s lives and to expand people’s educational opportunities.”
The Governor then expanded on the critical role that those educational opportunities play in our economy, “We need to have a significantly growing and important role for our technology colleges. And frankly, I don’t think unless we engage and have more opportunity for our technology colleges, we will be able to achieve the educational goals we have set. And if we don’t achieve these educational goals, we will not continue to have the robust economic opportunities that we have seen in the State of Utah today.”
Steve Moore, Chairman of the Ogden-Weber Tech College Board and former General Manager of Barnes Aerospace Ogden told the Board in Mercier’s last meeting that she is the kind of leader who avoided talking about herself, preferring to shine light on the institution instead.
This combination of humility and fierce advocacy for a cause is one of those rare leadership traits exemplified by Level 5 leaders Good to Great, by Jim Collins.
Moore also says that one of the best moves in Mercier's playbook, is letting others tell the story. Her masterful reliance on local employers and Hill Air Force Base to speak to the Legislature, helped secure funding for a major renovation of the BDO campus. That facility will train students in Utah’s cutting edge composites industries, and will open this fall.
Now looking ahead, the Ogden-Weber Tech College has appointed James R. Taggart as its new President. Taggart formerly served as Vice President for Instruction and has over two decades of experience at the Tech College. He has shown deep commitment to northern Utah’s business community, and encourages more Northern Utah residents to fill the demand for high-tech jobs in industries like composites or healthcare, by earning technical certifications.