Morningside College President Reynders announces June 2021 retirement

Local News

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Morningside College President John Reynders announced that he is retiring.

President Reynders said that he will retire on June 30, 2021.

“My tenure at Morningside has been the best 21 years of my professional life. Morningside and Sioux City have been a wonderful home, but the timing is right for me and my wife, Robin, as well as for Morningside. I am making this announcement knowing great things lie ahead for this place, and that the Board of Directors will have plenty of time to secure a search firm that can help build a Presidential Search Committee, conduct a national search, and prepare for the leadership transition. From the physical campus, to our enrollment, to the quality of our academic and athletic offerings, nearly every aspect of Morningside has been fortified over the last 21 years to position us for a bright future. There is a strong sense of community that permeates this campus. Our Board of Directors is deeply connected to our mission and the lives that have been changed by this place over the last 125 years. We are blessed to be located in a thriving and supportive community like Sioux City. We are confident in who we are, but we also know that innovation and change are vital to keeping Morningside strong. It’s not in Morningside’s nature – or my nature – to coast. That driving spirit will not only help find the right next leader, but will keep us moving forward in my final 15 months as president. There is much work ahead, and I look forward to working with everyone at Morningside to accomplish it.”

From Morningside College President John Reynders

He was named the 12th president in 1999 and became Morningside’s longest-serving president in 2019.

Reynders began his presidency as Morningside was finding itself at a crossroads, with outdated facilities, declining enrollment, and years of deficit spending.

He worked tirelessly to strengthen the board and build a senior leadership team energized to take on those challenges.

President Reynders brought new life to strategic planning and constructed a philosophy of “excellence in all things” that new permeates the Morningside College campus culture.

“John Reynders arrived at a crucial time in Morningside’s history. The leadership he has provided has been nothing short of transformative. John and Robin have left deep roots that will continue to nurture Morningside for many years to come. They will be missed by our Board of Directors and the entire community, but because of them, we are confident in our ability to attract Morningside’s next leader. The Board looks forward to assisting President Reynders in completing his vision for Morningside in his final 15 months as president, while also celebrating the remarkable tenure he and Robin have shared.”

From Morningside College Board of Directors Chairman Craig Struve

Morningside’s transformation during his two decades of leadership has rivaled many in Morningside’s history.

Almost every acre on the college’s campus has been systematically modified over the last 20 years.

Some of the significant transformations include:

  • The Walker Science Center, the Hickman-Johnson-Furrow Learning Center, Olsen Student Center, Elwood Olsen Stadium, Rosen-Verdoorn Sports Center, and Dimmitt Hall
  • Construction of Hilker Campus Mall, Lags Hall, Poppen & Waitt Apartments, Buhler Rohlfs Hall, Krone Advising Center, Tom Rosen Field
  • And numerous other updates and projects

Under his leadership, Reynders also refreshed Morningside College’s academic offerings:

  • The Palmer Research Symposium and Summer Undergraduate Research Program were launched
  • Travel abroad and experiential learning opportunities grew exponentially
  • The Regina Roth Applied Agricultural & Food Studies and Master of Science in Nursing programs were added
  • Morningside’s first doctoral award – the Doctor of Nursing Practice

He also oversaw the implementation of several awards to help attract and retain high-quality faculty and staff:

  • Thompson Staff Awards
  • The Walker Faculty Excellence Awards
  • And the Yockey Assessment Awards

A hallmark of Reynders tenure has been successfully transitioning Morningside Athletics from NCAA Division II to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

In the beginning, it was a controversial decision, but the move resulted in the expansion from 12 variety sports in 1999 to 28 variety sports in 2020.

The move to NAIA resulted in four Women’s Basketball national championships, two football national championships, and numerous national championships for individual events in track, swimming, and wrestling.

NAIA’s connection has also made Morningside home to dozens of Champions of Character award winners at the local and national levels.

Other accomplishments under Reynders’ leadership include:

  • The two largest fundraising efforts in Morningside’s history totaling more than $125 million
  • Apeak enrollment of 2,902 full- and part-time students in 2016
  • The third-largest freshman class in history arriving last fall
  • Alumni giving rate that normally exceeds 20% placing Morningside among the best in the country
  • An incredibly dedicated and engaging board of directors, senior leadership group, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

The most noticeable of all the accomplishments is President Reynders’ strong bonds with the Morningside community.

“From hosting several dinners at their home every week, to his open-door policy, John and Robin have made Morningside a welcoming, wonderful place for students and everyone who is part of the Morningside and Siouxland communities,” said Morningside College Board of Directors Chairman Craig Struve. “The sense of family and pride that John and Robin have helped build at Morningside are a true testament to their legacy.”

Some of the plans that Reynders plans to address in the last 15 months of his presidency include:

  • Fundraising to complete an entrance to campus, wayfinding signage, and welcome areas
  • Retooling elements of Morningside’s Graduate Education program
  • And continuing to work with faculty to make experiential learning ubiquitous on campus

The Morningside College Board of Directors will immediately begin the process of selecting a firm to assist with the search for a new president.

It’s expected that a search firm will be retained by the Board of Directors this spring.

After that, that firm will work with the Board to build the Presidential Search Committee and develop the steps and timeline for the process over the summer and into the fall of 2020.

Board of Directors Chairman Struve anticipates that the Board will announce the Committee later in 2020.

The search for the new Morningside College President will take place through 2020 and into 2021.

After the search ends, they will likely make a recommendation to the Board of Directors.

The Board will cast the final decision, with the announcement of Morningside’s next President to be expected sometime in the first half of 2021.

The estimated beginning date for the new president is July 1, 2021.

Once the search officially begins, check for updates on Morningside College’s website.

Watch the full press conference below.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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