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Published: Thursday, 9/4/2003

New college president says first task is to `listen'

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - It's been a busy first month on the job for Monroe County Community College's president, but you couldn't tell that from talking to Dr. David Nixon.

He's still too enamoured with his new surroundings and their inhabitants to get overwhelmed by whatever tasks the future may hold for him.

Dr. Nixon, 64, began work officially Aug. 1 after agreeing to a contract that will pay him an annual salary of $129,000. And the first thing he did, he said, was to open up his ears.

“For a new president, the first semester is a lot of listening to new ideas, and the best ideas always come from the people who work with our students every day,” Dr. Nixon said.

Dr. Nixon was the unanimous choice of the college's board of trustees to succeed retired president Audrey Warrick and become the fourth president in the college's 39-year history. He served for the last seven years as executive dean of Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, where he had previously been an instructor, chief fund-raiser, and guest lecturer.

A Nebraska native, Dr. Nixon is a former television anchorman at WHO-TV in Des Moines, who left broadcasting later in life for the halls of academia.

The trustees of the college are to officially welcome their new president Monday afternoon with a reception in the Student Services/Administration building, but they and the rest of the campus have largely opened up to Dr. Nixon already.

“I knew he was going to be terrific, but I think he exceeded my expectations,” college trustee Mary Kay Thayer said. “He seems to be someone who's proactive. He seems to be looking for little ways to improve the college.”

Dr. Nixon said his first few weeks on the job have been filled meeting and greeting the public, the faculty and staff, and the students of both the college and the greater community. And so far, he said, he's been thoroughly impressed by what he's seen and heard.

“It seems like every day I learn more about the assets of the college and this community than I knew when I interviewed here,” Dr. Nixon said, adding that he was taken aback at the depth of experience of his faculty and staff.

“I had our personnel department do the calculation for me, and together, our faculty and staff have a combined 2,220 years of experience here. That's phenomenal, and that tell me one, that this is a good place to work, and two, that there is strength and knowledge in that experience,” Dr. Nixon said.

Dr. Nixon took the three-day holiday to fly back to Iowa, pack his belongings, and bring them along with his wife, Judy, and his dog, to the family's Monroe-area condominium. It is from this home base that he has begun exploring Monroe County and the surrounding area over the last several weeks, he said.

One of his early favorites in the “things to do” category is jogging along the beachfront at Sterling State Park, where he called “breathtaking” the views and wildlife along his 2.5-mile path.

“I don't think people in this area really appreciate how special a place that is,” he said. “There are communities in the middle part of America that long for an asset like that.”



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