JazzFest History

Jerry Sue Thornton

Awarded: 2016
Born: Earlington, Kentucky

"Before Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton became President of Tri-C, she was told the school had a jazz festival. She had no idea how robust it was until she attended her first JazzFest concert at Severance Hall with the Modern Jazz Quartet. She saw JazzFest and The Jazz Studies program as a real flagship for the college, and her endless energy and passion helped guide them both to new heights."

- Dr. Alex Johnson, President, Tri-C


Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton is annually recognized as one of the 50 most influential people in Northeast Ohio. During her tenure as President of Cuyahoga Community College, the college became a leader in educational innovation, workforce training and economic development. She began her higher education career as an English faculty member at Triton College in Illinois, eventually being named of Dean of Arts and Sciences. In 1985, she became President of Lakewood (now Century) Community College in Minnesota and continued in that role until she was named to President of Cuyahoga Community College in January 1992. Her many leadership activities include working to help develop the community college concept in the Netherlands, China, United Kingdom, Jordan, and Qatar. She is an internationally acclaimed speaker, addressing the leadership of community colleges across the globe on a variety of topics.

Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton's First JazzFest
Dr. Thornton introducing the Modern Jazz Quartet