2024 National Pacesetter

2024 National Pacesetter

Dr. Elliot Stern
Saddleback College
Mission Viejo, CA

Dr. Elliot Stern is a transformational, inspiring leader and a caring and effective communicator – and he writes his own material.  

“When things come from my office and from me, I think it’s important to be in my voice,” he says. 

Dr. Stern is NCMPR’s 2024 Pacesetter of the Year, an award that recognizes a community college president or CEO who has demonstrated special leadership and support in college communications and marketing. It’s awarded annually in NCMPR’s seven districts, and district recipients compete for the national award. 

Writing the copy that comes above his signature on a document is about more than Dr. Stern’s voice and particular syntax: It’s about the authenticity he wants to bring to his role as president at Saddleback College. Part of that comes from being an LGBTQ+ leader, he says. Once, he had to manage two people, what he calls himself and in inner self. 

“When I came out, one of the most important things to me was that I would always be one person with one identity,” he says.  

Jennie McCue, Saddleback’s executive director of marketing and communications, calls Dr. Stern appreciative and considerate in his nomination.  

“He is a trusted adviser when you need one, and he trusts the team to do their jobs,” she wrote. “He respects us and values our expertise.”  

It’s all part of the culture he wants to create and support at Saddleback, which focuses on building human connection. One way he does that through what he writes for the college is by the words he chooses: He calls students precious, and he’s not afraid to use the L-word. 

He remembers the first time he wrote that Saddleback loves its students, in a message about National Coming Out Day a few years back. He sent it to his husband for review. 

“He said, ‘Don’t. It’s dangerous.’ How is that dangerous?” Dr. Stern says. “How did we let bad people take that away? I love my students. And why shouldn’t they know that? It would be awkward to ask other people to say that. If I can’t do it, I can’t possibly expect others to.” 

View past Pacesetter winners »