NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Mary Thornley, the transformative president of Trident Technical College, announced her plans to retire next summer.

“It is with deepest gratitude and humility I submit this retirement letter. I realize I will never be ready to leave, so I must leave Trident Tech without being ready,” Thornley said in her retirement letter.

Thornley is the college’s fifth and longest-serving president. She began her 50-year career with Trident Tech as an adjunct instructor in 1973 and later became a full instructor the following year.

She also served as department head, dean, and vice president during her years with the college. She was named president in 1991.

During her time as president, enrollment at the college has grown from 7,997 in the fall of 1991 to more than 13,000 in the fall of 2023. Trident Tech has been the largest technical college in the state since 2010.

The college has grown from three campuses in 1991 to five campuses and two training sites.

The college helps the community meet workforce demands through its myriad courses spanning manufacturing, nursing, hospitality, radio and television broadcasting, business, and more.

The Trident Technical College Area Commission will conduct a national search for a new president. College leaders say searches typically take between six and eight months.

The commission’s chair, Anita Zucker, will serve as the search committee chair, and the commission will follow the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education’s policy for presidential search committee appointments.

“Mary Thornley exemplifies visionary leadership. Her unwavering commitment to meeting the ever-evolving needs of our region has been a key factor in the Lowcountry’s continued growth and economic success,” said Zucker. “As we begin the process to find her successor, we look ahead with hope, eager to welcome a new president who shares her boundless ambition and tireless drive to meet the college’s mission to educate the individual, accelerate the economy, and inspire the future.”

Thornley has received numerous awards and honors over the years including the Order of the Palmetto, the Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award, the Shirley B. Gordon Phi Theta Kappa Presidential Award of Distinction, and the South Carolina Association of Technical College Commissioners CEO Award. She also won the Association of Community College Trustees CEO Award twice – in 2009 and 2019.

In 2018 the college’s Area Commission voted to rename the college’s Main Campus in North Charleston to honor Thornley for her years of service and leadership. The college’s original and largest campus is now the Thornley Campus.

Thornley’s retirement will be effective June 1, 2024.