Community Colleges to Jay Leno: Shut Up

A president challenges the late-night comedian to a motorcycle ride -- and a talk about education.
June 2, 2005

Many community college leaders can't wait until 2009, when Conan O'Brien takes over as host of "The Tonight Show." The current host, Jay Leno, has a habit of making jokes about community colleges, and there's not a lot of laughter about them at two-year institutions.

The jokes make fun of the alleged spelling ability (or lack thereof) of community college graduates, their career prospects, etc., implying that community college students just aren't that bright.

George R. Boggs, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, wrote to Leno this year, asking him to find other topics. So far, no response. (And we didn't get any response either from the publicist for "The Tonight Show.")

But Betty K. Young thinks she may have a way to get through to Leno, known for his love of motorcycles. Young, who spends a lot of time on her Harley-Davidson when she's not working as president of Northwest State Community College, has invited Leno to ride with her (either in Los Angeles or at her Ohio campus) and to talk about community colleges.

Young speaks with passion about community colleges -- from her own experience. In her letter to Leno, she noted that she had no college education at all until she was, at age 28, a single mother without many prospects. She ended up earning not only an associate degree (through Ohio University), but a bachelor's degree, a master's, a Ph.D., a J.D. and an LL.M. Earning her associate degree "changed my life faster than my Harley racing down the straight-away of Route 66," she wrote Leno.

She sent Leno a photograph of herself in academic regalia on her bike and challenged him to share it with viewers -- along with a more complete picture of community colleges. "I will set your wheels straight and give you the real story about community colleges," she wrote.

So far, Jay hasn't responded. But a spokesman for Northwest State said that the president has heard from a lot of supportive Harley-Davidson fans.


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