In 1979, ESPN was hitting the airwaves for the first time, Pink Floyd released “The Wall” and Sony began to sell the Walkman. Locally Asnuntuck Community College, located at the time in a leased warehouse on Phoenix Avenue (the current courthouse), offered a young man from Enfield a one-year teaching contract. In what is an end to an era, Asnuntuck Community College Accounting Professor Nicles Lefakis, has retired after 41 years of teaching at Asnuntuck.
Part of a two-person team in the early years, he and Esther Alaimo, also from Enfield, built an accounting program that had the highest percent of students in the entire community college system. They also negotiated the first transfer agreements with 4-year colleges that provided for all degree requirements to be transferred.
Lefakis was also key to development of the first accounting course specifically aimed at assisting small business owners with their bookkeeping needs, again a model for the state’s community colleges. Interim Dean of Academics Teresa Foley said, “After 41 years, Nick Lefakis is the longest serving full-time faculty member in Asnuntuck’s history. His dedication to Asnuntuck’s students and the community throughout the years has been steadfast and unprecedented. His great sense of humor and historical perspective are always appreciated by his colleagues and students alike. We are glad that Nick is not going far and will be back to teach part-time at Asnuntuck in the fall.”
At Asnuntuck, Lefakis was a faculty leader. He was often elected by his peers to serve on personnel committees, on committees related to curriculum and academic standards, and on improving instruction. Likewise, he was selected by college management to serve on various committees related to accreditation, college management, and course transfer. Frequently selected by the committee members themselves to a leadership position on the committees, Lefakis was well-known to community college Board employees.
Always interested in helping the community. Lefakis and Alaimo brought The Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) to Asnuntuck in the early 1980’s and ran it for a number of years. Lefakis was a key person in helping long-time colleague Bill Searle recently get ACC to once again be the host for VITA in Enfield. According to Searle, “He got other faculty to support it and they worked with the administration to have ACC host VITA.”
Asnuntuck Community College’s Interim Chief Executive Officer Michelle Coach applauded Lefakis’ commitment to the College. “He has dedicated 41 years to Asnuntuck Community College in the Business department. We wish him the best and will not forget his words of wisdom, incredible memory of the past, and his witty sense of humor. We are thankful he will continue as an adjunct at the college.”
On the state level, Lefakis was deeply involved with the state Center for Teaching since its inception. Selected to the staff of the prestigious Barnes Seminar in its second year, Lefakis was repeatedly honored by being selected as a staff member more often than any other person in the state.
In commenting on how Lefakis is seen by other faculty members, Professor Joseph Finckel said, “I cannot think of a faculty member at Asnuntuck who is as universally respected for his integrity, discretion, perspective, and kindness as is Nick Lefakis. I would not be the colleague, teacher, and person that I am today if not for his mentoring and friendship.”
Lefakis was also extremely active in the community college professional staff union, being elected as an Asnuntuck delegate for more than 30 years. He served on numerous special state-wide committees, and was a permanent member of the Finance Committee, often serving as the Chair.
When asked what he remembered best about working with Lefakis, Searle mentioned, “Nick was always embarrassed when a student speaker at graduation mentioned him as a favorite instructor, but I was never surprised because as an office-mate, I knew how many students came to him for help and advice.”