After coming back for the second time to Crowder College, Dr. Kent Farnsworth, interim president, will soon leave the college.
The Neosho Daily News recently caught up with Farnsworth and asked him some questions about his time at the college.
NDN: Give your background when you first came to the college.
Farnsworth: I came to the college in June 1985 and left in May 2004. I had been a dean at a community college in Iowa, and this was my first college presidency.
NDN: When you started at Crowder College in the 1980s, what were some of your goals for the college?
Farnsworth: I started my career in education at Northeast Missouri State University at the time Charles McClain was leading it through the transition to become Truman State University. He instilled in me a desire to make sure that quality drove everything we did in education, and my goal for Crowder was to insure that it provided the best freshman and sophomore education available in the four state area. I believed that if we provided a quality education at an affordable price, growth would take care of itself. That proved to be the case. Shortly after I came, I became acquainted with the leadership approach called “Servant Leadership” that Jim Tatum had introduced to the college and supported as a guiding leadership philosophy. It was very consistent with my own philosophy, approach, promoting and strengthening it as a part of the Crowder culture became a second important goal.
NDN: When you came back as interim president, what were some of your goals for the college?
Farnsworth: The job of an interim is to leave the college in the best possible condition for the person who follows, and that was my primary interest. As I looked at the opportunities that existed for the year, I told the board that in addition, I would like to spend the 12-month strengthening relationships with other educational entities in our region, acquiring the facilities in Cassville, supporting the college in fundraising for the other facilities being completed and help improve the housing situation on campus. I also wanted to see us strengthen our database and develop a better tracking system for student performance. Fortunately, the administrative team we had in place here already had most of these goals in mind and all I had to do was give them the support they needed. We’ve been lucky to be able to get most of those things accomplished.
NDN: How has the college changed when you retired and then came back?
Farnsworth: When we had our end-of-the-year recognition day, I told the faculty and staff that I honestly believe the college is a better place than I left it 10 years ago. It has grown a great deal, of course, but I think the faculty, staff and administrative team are the strongest the college has ever had. It has been evident to me that the culture of servant leadership and a philosophy of always putting students first has become such a part of Crowder that it has guided personnel choices and program development over time, making the college better and better. We have a tendency to measure success by increases in numbers but the most satisfying thing to me about coming back has been to see that the growth has really been a reflection of public recognition of that emphasis on quality.
NDN: Where do you see the college in the next few years?
Farnsworth: I have great confidence in the new leadership, with the people the college now has in place, I see years of constant improvement and expansion. The college couldn’t have a better governing board. Every one of them is fully committed to the mission of the college and to the principles that have made it great. Plus this is a very creative college team — the best I’ve worked with in terms of just being solid and innovative at every level — and that includes our center directors in other parts of the college’s service region. I see more and more students recognizing that starting at Crowder — no matter what they plan to do next — is not just the best financial choice, but the best academic and career choice. The next decade will definitely be our best!
NDN: What advice would you tell Dr. Jennifer Methvin?
Farnsworth: I think she already knows what I would tell her, but it is basically that you don’t just come to work at this college. You come to be part of the Crowder family. You work were because you care as much about everyone else as you do about yourself, and your job is to help each of them be as successful as you can possibly make them — particularly our students. You lead through service and caring, and then president’s job is to be the principal server and caregiver. If others at the college know you genuinely care about them, they will do everything they can to extend that caring to everyone else.
NDN: Were your goals reached from when you retired from the college years ago?
Farnsworth: Yes and no. I was very excited about the opportunity to go to UMSL to direct the community college leadership program and I think it contributed a great deal to strengthening community college leadership across the state. I also wanted to spend more time working abroad on community college systems development, and had some great experiences doing that. When I left UMSL, though, there were some changes in emphasis and the program hasn’t survived in the form I would have liked. So that has been a disappointment. Some of the international contacts continue to be great friends, though, and I think the college here will benefit from those connections.
NDN: How honored are you to have come back and be the interim president?
Farnsworth: It was certainly an honor to have been asked to come back. This has always been my academic home, and it was great to be able to come back to it for a while. But it worried me a little too. I worried about spending 19 good years here and messing it all up by stepping back in for a 20th. Dr. Marble did a great job here, so it wasn’t a matter of fixing things. All the room for movement seemed to be on the down side. But I’ve had great support from everyone and re-retire feeling like we‘ve made a little progress during the year that will make the college an even better place for Dr. Methvin.
NDN: What is next for you?
Farnsworth: I’ve been doing some college coaching as part of an initiative by the Lumina Foundation that assists colleges with the challenges of improving student completion rates, and I will continue with that work. But my lifetime ambition has been to write fiction. I started when I first retired under the pen name Allen Kent, and now have four novels in circulation in both electronic, print form and had another about half drafted when I took this assignment. It has just been sitting there and I’m excited about getting back to it. And Holly and I plan to travel more. I don’t expect to have any difficulty filling my time.