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Garner leaving Co-Lin after 11 years at helm

WESSON – Copiah-Lincoln Community College is looking at the endof an era as school president Dr. Howell Garner announced hisretirement at Thursday’s board of trustees meeting.

Garner said he has mixed feelings about turning over theleadership of the college after being the man at the school’s helmfor the last 11 years.

“I have mixed emotions and of course there’s nostalgia, becausethis college has been a part of my life for so long,” said Garner,who has been with the school for 34 years while serving in variouscapacities. “It was tough to make that decision, but it has to bedone at some point. So why not do it when you’ve got health left togo do some new things?”

The board has named current Dean of the College Dr. RonaldNettles as Garner’s replacement. Following the board’s actionsThursday, faculty and staff members at Co-Lin’s Wesson, Natchez andSimpson County campuses were being informed of the movesFriday.

Garner said he felt lucky to have worked with so many excellentand qualified educators during his time at Co-Lin.

“I have had the pleasure and good fortune to serve with manytruly outstanding faculty members, some of whom have beenaffectionately titled ‘icons’ in the history and tradition of thiscollege,” said Garner. “In addition, I have had the distinctpleasure of working with many outstanding professional supportstaff members throughout my 34 years at Co-Lin. It has been a greatexperience for me and for my family to be a part of the Co-Linfamily.”

Garner said he’s leaving the presidency of the school to pursueother dreams. While some people wonder if they’ll know when it’stime to retire, he’s happy and excited at the chance to have somenew experiences.

“I want to go while I’m still healthy and so is my wife, becausewe both want to travel, and there are things I’d like to do andpersonal interests I’d like to pursue in the future,” he said.”I’ll do some things that might catch my interest down the road,but at this point I couldn’t even tell you what they are. I thinkI’ll just live free and see what comes for a little while.”

Garner said his first plan is to move into the home he owns inBrandon and do some woodworking in his private shop.

“I have a shop and I enjoy woodwork, and I’m going to do somework there, and probably add on to my shop and make it bigger toaccommodate my projects,” Garner said. “But I’m not going to planthings out six months in advance. No matter what happens I’m goingto feel comfortable with just taking life as it comes.”

One of the things he’s most proud of during his time at CLCC,Garner said, is the reputation he feels the college has made foritself through the faculty and staff commitment to excellence.

“We have some folks in our faculty and staff who have been atremendous influence on the kids, and really continued excellencebegan when we started back in the 1920s,” he said.

And the academic accomplishments of the school are alsosomething he’ll always take great pride in, Garner said.

“One of the things that I have most enjoyed is to have been apart of so many outstanding programs, such as the studentorganizations which have represented the college in an outstandingfashion through the years,” Garner said. “I was thrilled to havebeen a part of the Eta Omega Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa being namedthe ‘Most Distinguished’ Chapter in April 2005. The chapter hadpreviously been given that distinction in 1989. No other college inMississippi has ever accomplished that distinction even once, muchless twice.”

Garner served as the dean of the college from 1985-1997. Priorto moving to the Wesson campus he served as administrativeassistant/assistant dean, and dean on the Natchez campus from1974-1985.

During his tenure as president, Co-Lin has seen growth inenrollment, programs, services, faculty and facilities.

Garner’s work with the Simpson County supervisors led to theconstruction of Co-Lin’s Simpson County Center.

The $4.17 million center, between Mendenhall and Magee, openedin August 2005. The center offers a full array of academic classesand three career-technical programs and enrollment continues togrow every year.

Construction of eight new buildings took place under Garner’stenure, including the Billy B. Thames Conference Center (1999), theDow-Young Instructional Technology Building (2004), and the R. S.Parker Academic Building in Simpson County (2005) among others.Many other renovations were also conducted under hisleadership.

Co-Lin’s latest renovation project, Willie H. Smith Hall, wascompleted this fall. This $2.6 million project expanded and updatedscience labs to state-of-the-art, created a much-needed suite offaculty offices with necessary conference and workspace, andenhanced the overall nature of the building. In addition,instructional technology was installed in classrooms as a separatepart of the overall project. Plans are to build a fitness centerthat will be completed in Spring 2008.

The college’s athletic programs expanded during Garner’s tenure,with the addition of men and women’s soccer. All of Co-Lin’sintercollegiate athletic programs (football, basketball, baseball,softball, tennis, and golf) have participated in nationaltournaments or bowl games, and student-athletes have beenrecognized for their academic excellence.

Garner is a member, deacon and Sunday school teacher and iscurrently serving on the Restoration II Committee at First BaptistChurch in Brookhaven. He and his wife, Candace are the parents oftwo sons, Brad and Justin.