As Frances Squire prepares for her retirement next month as the West Hills Community College District Foundation’s Executive Director, West Hills College Lemoore honored her with the school’s most prestigious award.
Squire, who has worked for the district for the past 16 years after jobs in public relations, journalism and even owning and operating a motel, was given the school’s Spirit of the Eagle Award, which recognizes service and dedication to WHCL.
Squire, who was given the honor at the school’s scholarship awards ceremony, said she was surprised about getting an award when she thought of the people that had gotten it before her.
“I was totally caught off guard and tremendously honored and flattered,” she said. “There’s people they’ve given that award to that helped build the school. It’s the highest honor the school gives out.”
A native of Corcoran, Squire worked various jobs in-town before landing in the district.
A former reporter for the Corcoran Journal, Squire also served as the city’s Chamber of Commerce President.
Following her mother’s death, she inherited a motel near her alma mater, Corcoran High, which routinely housed construction workers who helped build part of the city’s prison at the time.
In 2001, Squire was named WHCCD’s Director of Marketing after also having a job in media relations with Pacific Gas & Electric.
After nine years as district’s marketing director, Squire moved to her new position, which she will hold until she retires in June.
Squire saw a challenge in getting people to donate to a community college system that she truly believed in.
“It’s hard to go out there and ask people for money that could benefit students,” Squire said. “I’ve tried to be a huge advocate for community colleges. Community colleges are a hidden gem. They give students a chance to get a higher education for a good price.”
In her time there, Squire helped the growth of the President’s Scholars Program, which offers free tuition and $250 a semester to any in-coming student who has lived in California and had a GPA of at least 3.5.
When she started, the program had 15 students taking advantage of the program.
Now, 130 students are in the program from West Hills Coalinga, Lemoore, the North District center, Firebaugh and online students.
West Hills College Lemoore president Dr. Kristin Clark said Squire’s retirement will be a big loss for the district.
“Frances has significantly contributed to the growth and development of West Hills College Lemoore by giving her time and resources,” Clark said. “During her tenure the foundation’s assets have grown to over $2.5 million and her tireless efforts to secure resources has enabled us to offer almost $500,000 in scholarships to our students each year, which includes our President’s Scholars. After her retirement, she will be truly missed.”
When Squire took the job in the district, she didn’t expect to stay there for the rest of her career. She hopes people continue to support students in the district and programs like the President's Scholars Program continue to grow.
Now, Squire retires after helping hundreds of students help pay for their education.
“I went to work there thinking I’d only be there for a couple years,” Squire said. “That was 16 years ago. It’s been a great career and it’s been a lot of fun. Everybody wins when you support students and education. I love that I’ve been able to help students.”