Garner prepares to help colleges in new position

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 19, 2008

WESSON – As outgoing Copiah-Lincoln Community College PresidentDr. Howell Garner prepares for his final official day of June 30,his retirement plans are centered more on work than relaxing on thefront porch.

Garner said he is planning on enjoying woodworking, travel andplaying “a little golf,” but he will also continue serving theneeds of education in the state by assuming the position ofexecutive director of the Mississippi Community CollegeFoundation.

Garner said he was selected by the foundation’s board ofdirectors to fill the executive director position, which has beenvacant for some time. The new job is perfect match for Garner,whose enthusiasm for education runs deep.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“This allows me to stay connected to the state’s communitycolleges, to continue to be a part of that mission on our state,”Garner said Sunday during a retirement reception in his honor. “I’mnot gonna quit living – not gonna quit working.”

Garner, who by his position as Co-Lin president has alreadyserved on the foundation’s board for years, is familiar with hisnew duties and ready to meet the challenge. He already has ideas toimplement for the state’s junior colleges, though he is mum on thedetails. He is keeping the full disclosure to himself until hisproposals can be submitted to the board.

“We will be developing some new initiatives to provide supportand enhancement for community colleges,” Garner said. “I haven’tlaid these plans out for the board yet, but they include preparingfuture leadership for the colleges and more support for scholarshipendowments. I haven’t developed these plans fully, but I know whatI want to do.”

Garner said he will also push for the continuing support of thefoundation’s existing programs, such as a teacher education programthat trains educated but non-certified people for teacherpositions. Garner said he is looking forward to supporting thestate’s 15 community colleges from the foundation, as he believeswholeheartedly in the institutions’ increasingly important missionin the state’s economy.

“Community colleges are absolutely crucial for the health ofeconomic development in Mississippi,” he said. “Not only because weprepare students for two years for universities – and we do anexcellent job at that – but because in today’s world, workforceeducation has become the dominant factor in lifting the state’seconomy.”

Garner clarified exactly why community colleges have taken thelead in workforce training.

“We have teachers in the classroom dedicated to teachingstudents in their area of expertise,” he said. “Universities areinterested in research and publishing – things that areeducationally important – but they have larger classes andsometimes assistants teaching in place of the professor. Incommunity colleges, we have teachers who are 100 percent focused onteaching in the classroom.”

Garner’s knowledge of and experience in the community collegesystem is a relief to those officials who will now be calling onthe former Co-Lin president for assistance. Incoming Co-LinPresident Dr. Ronnie Nettles said Garner, serving in his newposition, will be a tremendous asset to him as he settles intorunning Co-Lin.

“There hasn’t been any leadership from the executive directorposition in a while,” Nettles said. “The foundation works forcommunity colleges in a lot of different ways – certain legislativeactivities and recognition-type programs. Dr. Garner has a lot ofexperience in dealing with that.”

Dick Erson, who will ascend to the position of vice president ofthe Simpson County branch of Co-Lin in July, said Garner’sinfluence would have a welcome, indirect impact.

“More than anything, what he can do will help all the communitycollege presidents, which will trickle down to us,” he said.

Erson, whose Simpson County campus is not yet three years old,will be engaged in the task of growing the institution andexpanding course offerings.

“Dr. Garner will make a good ally through all of that,” he said.”He was the quarterback that led the team to get that campusestablished.”