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President's panel talks about the college, past and present

By Megan Johnson
On December 7, 2015

Some of Kirkwood's former and present leadership engage in a panel discussion during Collaborative Learning Days on Nov.23. Left to right: Dr. Bill Stewart, former KCC president; Wayne Newton, former board chair; Dr. Norm Neilsen, former KCC president; Dr Lois Bartleme, current board chair; and Dr. Mick Starcevich, current KCC president. Photo by Keith Norem.

On Nov. 23, Kirkwood Community College’s living current and past presidents, as well as representatives from the Board of Trustees, reminisced and told jokes to celebrate Kirkwood’s 50-year anniversary in  the Ballantyne Auditorium during Collaborative Learning Days event. 

The panel included Dr. Bill Stewart, Wayne Newton, Dr. Lois Bartelme, Dr. Norm Neilsen and Dr. Mick Starcevich. The group talked about both hard times and good times as well as Kirkwood’s many achievements and success stories since the start of the college. Stewart described how Kirkwood’s staff and students were “wonderful people to work with,” and how staff members who worked on new projects “jumped in with both feet.”  

Stewart also remarked on tough times Kirkwood has faced. For example, KCC had to cut welding instructors when he was president due to economic hard times. However, during this time, Stewart explained the college “went for quality each and every time, to serve students better” as it made the necessary cuts.

Newton described Kirkwood as a “family” and noted how each staff comes together to make great things happen. He expressed how Kirkwood “tell[s] the world what [it] is capable of doing and [does] it well.”Bartelme explained how Kirkwood has always “served the common good.” She also said that Kirkwood staff does a great job in helping new board members understand the many roles Kirkwood serves in the community. 

Bartelme shared a story from when she was at a conference, where she met another community college president from New Mexico. When that president learned Bartelme was from Kirkwood, she said, “That’s a very important institution.” This shows how well-known and successful Kirkwood is across the nation, explained Batelme. 

Neilsen described his coming into the Kirkwood community as a game of chance. He learned about an opening for an assistant to the president the day the application was due. He also mentioned the success Kirkwood has had with distance learning. In the beginning, distance learning was considered 20 miles away at various Kirkwood centers. In fact, Neilsen described how tests, syllabi and other materials were delivered to these centers by van. These first few steps that Kirkwood took toward distance learning opened the doors to many other opportunities, said Neilsen. He also explained how this helped Kirkwood build solid relationships with its surrounding community. 

Current KCC President Mick Starcevich commented on how Kirkwood would not be as successful as it is today without the help of all staff members, past and present. He expressed the importance of both the Board and the community. In the past decade in particular, Kirkwood’s accomplishments have included The Hotel and the campus’ wind turbine.

The overall theme of the discussion was that Kirkwood continues to dedicate itself to serving students of all different backgrounds to fulfill their lives through meaningful education. 

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