Head of the Class

Jul 09, 2019

Dr. William Deeds wasn’t looking for a job 19 years ago when he was asked to apply to be vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Morningside.

He applied for the job as a favor to a friend, and during the interview process, fell in love with the school. He also got along well with new President John Reynders, and he thought they could form a good partnership.

“Morningside at that time was having some serious financial problems, so people kept saying, ‘Why would you go there?’” said Deeds, who was later promoted to provost. “I said, ‘Well, this president’s got a plan, and I think it’s going to work.’”

Deeds retired in May after a period of growth at Morningside that rivals any other in the college’s history. He played a key role in helping Morningside prosper by strengthening the college’s academic programs.

“I contend that in the 125-year history of Morningside College, there has never been a more effective leader than Bill in the role of chief academic officer,” Reynders said.

Not long after Deeds arrived at Morningside, he worked with faculty on a new curriculum that switched from three-credit to four-credit courses, allowing for more in-depth study. Morningside was one of the first colleges in the Midwest to make this change, giving the college a distinctive feature to attract students.

Deeds lightened the faculty course load so professors had more time to work one-on-one with students and to focus on the quality of their teaching. He also added May Term, where students could learn through travel with professors, or they could stay on campus to study interesting topics not offered during any other term at the college.

“For a lot of our alums, their May Term experiences are their single best memory, so that’s been a neat part of the curriculum change,” Deeds said.

Deeds increased faculty salaries from below average when he arrived to on par with or even above salaries offered by peer institutions today. He also instituted merit pay. These changes helped the college to attract and retain high-quality faculty members.

Deeds is proud to have hired more than 80 percent of the current faculty.

“If you look at the faculty that have been hired since Bill’s been here, we have people who are active, people who are interested in looking at new ways to teach, new ways to do things, active in their disciplines,” said Randy Campbell, an associate professor of computer science who served six years as president of the Faculty Senate. “He should get a lot of credit for the quality of the faculty because of the hires he’s done over the years.”

Colleagues on the senior staff described Deeds as a person you go to for advice. Ron Jorgensen, vice president for business and finance, said he is a hard worker and a team player who has a great sense of humor. Terri Curry, vice president for student life and enrollment, said he is “everything you want in a colleague and friend.”

Deeds supported student development both inside and outside the classroom. He attended countless college events, mentioning the first national championship in women’s basketball and the first national championship in football as highlights.

His wife, Pamla Hoadley, made her mark on campus as well. She assisted the college several times as a project manager, even designing the Spoonholder Café in the Hickman-Johnson-Furrow Learning Center. She also joined campus groups and went on college trips.

Deeds worked for almost 20 years at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., and for almost 20 years at Morningside. But his impact goes well beyond these two schools.

He worked with several associate deans at Morningside who went on to become chief academic officers at other institutions. Dr. Susan Burns, a former associate dean at Morningside who is now vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, said he was a great role model.

“I have worked very hard to be a mentor to the people who report to me and provide them with opportunities to develop personally and professionally as Bill did for me,” she said.

Deeds received the 2016 Chief Academic Officer Award from the Council of Independent Colleges. The national award recognized his significant support of colleagues at independent colleges and universities, his role as a mentor to many new chief academic officers, and the work he has done at the institutions he has served.

His influence most likely will continue. He is looking at moving to a retirement community affiliated with Furman University in Greenville, S.C. After that, he is open to doing some consulting.

Just a few weeks ago, Curry said she was still trying to wrap her head around the fact that Deeds was leaving.

“He’s such a good man,” she said. “Most people at Morningside don’t know the place without him.”

Graduating from Morningside

Dr. William Deeds put a lot of heart into his work as provost. Just look at the care he took in planning the college’s commencement ceremony.

Deeds considered college graduation to be an important life event comparable to getting married or having a child. He believed that significant life moment should have a significant ceremony. So he put in the time to make sure he correctly pronounced the name of every student who walked across the stage, even getting in touch with individual students to verify.

He pushed to move commencement outside, where it is prettier, there is no limit on guests, and the setting is more kid-friendly. Instead of flipping tassels, Morningside now hoods graduates so it’s different from high school, and the college brings in noteworthy individuals to give commencement speeches.

This year Deeds gave the commencement speech because he was receiving an honorary doctorate from the college, an honor that he said “means more to me than any other I have received.”

In his closing comments, Deeds told graduates that Morningside College is continuously improving.

“One of the reasons for that is that you graduates have left Morningside College better than you found it because of the things you have done while you were here. I hope I have also left Morningside College better than I found it because of what I have done. Congratulations, graduates, and I wish you all the best. Thank you.”