College President Diagnosed with Skin Cancer

South Puget Sound Community College President Gerald Pumphrey was diagnosed with a type of skin cancer called amelanotic melanoma on Aug. 11, after having a small bump on his scalp sent into laboratories for testing.

Pumphrey later underwent surgery on Aug. 23 to remove a portion of his scalp for further testing. Tests did not find any tumorous cells outside of the isolated portion of skin where the melanoma was found. A skin graft was later conducted to replace this skin.

Because Pumphrey had a biopsy last year that did not indicate any kind of cancer, he hopes that the melanoma was found in its early stages and has not spread.Despite the challenges he faces, Pumphrey does not intend on allowing his health concerns to affect SPSCC.

“I won’t let there be a real impact on the college, because it’s more important than any one of us,” he said.

Pumphrey was in and out of his office during August due to these various procedures. He does not expect to be away any more outside of routine checkups as long as he remains healthy.The news of the cancer was a shock to Pumphrey’s wife and daughter, especially considering the danger of the disease. He received abundant support from both friends and family after revealing his condition.

Pumphrey has remained optimistic throughout this ordeal by displaying humor in emails updating current faculty and staff of his recovery.“I am not in any significant pain,” he wrote, “but I am wearing what looks like a knotted white pantyhose over my head to keep my dressing where it is supposed to be.”In letters to campus staff regarding his health, he repeatedly thanked everyone for their kind words.

Individuals from both SPSCC and other community colleges in Washington have reached out during this time.

In his absence the president’s staff handled Pumphrey’s routine affairs, in whom Pumphrey has the “utmost confidence.”

In the event that he is no longer able to fulfill duties as president, the board of trustees has an existing succession policy.

Pumphrey can appoint a vice president to take over his responsibilities in his absence, and if he has not appointed one, the vice president of administrative services automatically assumes this role.Pumphrey hopes that he will be healthy and productive in the future. “I’m very attached to the mission of the college, and to the students, and people who work here…so I want to be able to devote my full attention to those responsibilities.”