When John C. Reynders arrived on campus in 1999 to become the 12th president of Morningside College, the institution was at a crossroads. The school faced declining enrollment, and budget deficits threatened the college’s ability to pursue its mission.
Undaunted, President Reynders delivered a call to action in which he said, “At several critical junctures over the past 105 years, circumstances have threatened the dreams of our original founders. But in each instance, led by such sturdy examples as Lillian Dimmitt who would not abandon her ‘college in the cornfield’ and Earl Roadman who balanced a budget by exchanging livestock for tuition, the Morningside community has always summoned the vision, creativity and initiative to prosper and prevail.”
The board, faculty, staff and students quickly rose to the president’s challenge. They joined in strategic planning, and the college developed a course of action that focused primarily on improving aging facilities, which would enhance the overall Morningside experience and make the college more attractive to prospective students visiting campus.
This effort has been resoundingly successful. Over the past 10 years, Morningside has raised more than $72 million for facilities improvements, annual scholarships and endowment funding. Full-time undergraduate student enrollment has grown from 842 students 10 years ago to over 1,150 students each of the past four years.
The president continues to engage the board, faculty, staff and students in a culture of planning. While the previous plan focused on physical facilities, the new strategic plan emphasizes programming and enhancing the quality of the student experience, an endeavor the president expects to be “even more exciting for the college’s future.”
President Reynders came to Morningside from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., where he was vice president for administrative services and treasurer. He has experience at all levels of higher education, having also served at Allegheny as director and dean of enrollment planning and financial aid, special assistant to the provost, associate director of athletics, associate professor of physical education, instructor in mathematics and head men's basketball coach.
In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities, President Reynders is a member of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (IAICU); Iowa College Foundation; and Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). He also has provided higher education consulting services through George Dehne and Associates.
President Reynders holds a Master of Arts in education and a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Allegheny. He and his wife, Robin, share their sons: Mathew, Chuck, and Jeremy.