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John Reynders to retire as Morningside College president
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John Reynders to retire as Morningside College president

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Morningside President John Reynders retires

John Reynders, president of Morningside College, announces his retirement effective June 30, 2021 after holding his position for 21 years making him the longest-serving president in the College’s history. Here, Reynders makes his announcement in the Weikert Auditorium at Buhler-Rohlfs Hall at Morningside College, Tuesday in Sioux City.

SIOUX CITY -- John Reynders, Morningside College's longest-serving president, said Thursday he will retire in June 2021.

During his 21 years at the helm, Reynders led the two largest fundraising efforts in the private Sioux City college's history, totaling more than $125 million. The rate of alumni giving generally exceeded 20 percent, placing Morningside among the beast in the nation. And enrollment grew to a peak of 2,902 full or part-time students in 2016. 

A hallmark of Reynders' early tenure was also the decision to transition Morningside's athletic teams from NCAA Division II to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA.

Though the move initially generated controversy, Morningside has since won four national championships in women's basketball, numerous national titles for individual events in track, swimming and wrestling, and two national championships in football the last two seasons. 

"John's leadership has been nothing short of transformative," Morningside College Board of Directors Chairman Craig Struve said Tuesday. "He and (Reynders' wife) Robin have left deep roots that will continue to nurture Morningside for many years to come."

When Reynders was named Morningside's 12th president in 1999, the college "faced outdated facilities, declining enrollment and years of deficit spending," Struve said.

"John brought new life to strategic planning and constructed a philosophy of excellence in all things that now permeate campus culture," Struve said.

Struve mentioned significant renovations to the Walker Science Center, Hickman-Johnson-Furrow Learning Center and Elwood Olsen Stadium, as well as the construction of Buhler-Rohlfs Hall and Krone Advising Center, among other projects.

Under Reynders' leadership, the Palmer Research Symposium and Summer Undergraduate Research Program was launched, travel abroad and experiential learning opportunities grew and the Doctor of Nursing Practice -- Morningside's first doctoral award -- was added.

Morningside President John Reynders retires

In light of the coronavirus crisis, John Reynders, president of Morningside College, is delaying his retirement by one year. Originally slated to retire in June 2021, he will now retire in June 2022. This gives the college more time to conduct a nationwide search for a new leader.

Reynders, who became the school's largest-service president in 2019, said his last day at Morningside will be June 30, 2021. 

"My tenure at Morningside has been the best 21 years of my professional life," Reynders said at a news conference Tuesday that was attended by a group of faculty, staff, students and alumni. "Morningside and Sioux City have been a wonderful home but the timing is right for me and my wife, Robin, as well as for (the college)."

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Morningside College

Struve said the board of directors will immediately begin the process of selecting a firm to assist with the search process. A Presidential Search Committee will be formed later this year while the Board of Directors will cast its final decision sometime in the first half of 2021.

The estimated start date for Morningside's next president will be July 1, 2021.

However, Reynders said he will continue to work on projects right up to the end.

"It's not in Morningside's nature -- or my nature -- to coast," he said. "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."

Asked what he wanted his lasting legacy to be, Reynders said it was creating a culture of excellence. 

"Whether it was in chemistry, the performing arts or athletics, we wanted to be the best," he said. 

That pursuit of excellence will leave Morningside "perfectly poised for the future," Reynders said.

While Reynders and his wife plan to retire to Florida, he intends to keep in contact with many of Morningside's alumni.

"I love the fact that students want to stay connected with me and with the school," he said. "It's wonderful to see the live they lead long after they leave Morningside."

"I love this college," Reynders said. "I love the students."

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