Ryan Quarles named president of Kentucky Community and Technical College System

By: - September 29, 2023 11:35 am

Ryan Quarles spoke to supporters on primary election night after finishing second in the GOP race for the gubernatorial nomination, May 16, 2023, in Lexington. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Carter Skaggs)

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has been named the fourth president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System following a national search. 

The KCTCS Board of Regents named Quarles, who has seven college degrees including a doctorate in higher education administration from Vanderbilt and a master’s degree in higher education from Harvard University, as president. 

“I am both humbled and excited to further my public service towards the Commonwealth through KCTCS — our state’s most impactful higher education entity,” Quarles said in a press release. “For countless Kentuckians, our community and technical colleges change lives everyday as we not only fulfill career dreams, but also strengthen our state’s workforce needs. As a former community college student, I’m excited to get started.”

Quarles, a Republican, said he sees his transition to KCTCS as a continuation of his career in public service. Before he was elected to two terms as agriculture commissioner, he was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. 

Earlier this year, he ran for governor, but came in second to Republican gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Daniel Cameron in the Republican primary. Since then Quarles has hinted at a goal of joining higher education. 

A KCTCS spokesperson said negotiations for Quarles’ contract, including his salary, are underway, but he is expected to begin his tenure as president no later than Jan. 1, 2023.

“Dr. Quarles’ proven statewide leadership, his relationships across Kentucky and in Washington, D.C., as well as his outstanding educational background in higher education administration, make him the clear choice to move our system forward,” said KCTCS Board of Regents Chair Barry Martin in a press release. 

Quarles will succeed Paul Czarapata, who led KCTCS for nearly two years before resigning in February. The commissioner was selected among three finalists, who visited KCTCS offices, met with college presidents and the board and participated in virtual forums with faculty and staff. The other finalists were Dean McCurdy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, and Beverly Walker-Griffea, president of Mott Community College of Michigan.

The national search was conducted by search firm AGB Search and yielded 43 applicants. 


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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.