Second thoughts, regrets? "I don't think there was anything so negative that I wish I'd done that differently," he said. "I look around and I'm pretty happy with where we are now."
The college faces several challenges. Besides an economic recession that has forced almost universal budget cutbacks, higher tuition fees and reduction in some courses, it's engaged in a redistricting process that must be done after every national census. It's a process in which area populations are equalized and boundaries are adjusted in compliance with state and federal law. Several public comment and outreach sessions have been held and more are planned.
More troubling is accreditation process. In July, the college was placed on "warning status" by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges after the commission met and reviewed a comprehensive evaluation of the college in June.
Earlier this month, an analyst with the commission released a report on how the college was doing in correcting some of the defects that led to the warning. The analyst concluded that "the clock is ticking, and to convey a sense of urgency to the college community ... Merced has made progress since the team's visit, but much more work is needed in numerous areas before the college is back in the commission's good graces."
Keith Law, president of the Merced College Faculty Association, said Duran had been "a poster president for the college, a Latino who made good, which shows it's possible for a lot of students to do so." But he criticized Duran's management style, saying "today the world requires a nuts-and-bolts style of manager, but his style was more personal but give him a lot of credit for all those years of service."
Paradoxically, Duran would agree with that assessment of his style. "I've always depended on my intuition," he told the Sun-Star, "and had absolute confidence that human beings are going to do the right thing. If you invite people to participate, you empower them."
How does he hope to be remembered? "As a local guy who went to school, was blessed to go to Merced College and left this a better place than I found it. Did I matter? Everything else is just trappings. Ultimately, that's what really matters."
Executive Editor Mike Tharp can be reached at (209) 385-2456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.