President Garner to leave Cornell College

After 15 years as president, Les Garner is leaving Cornell College to accept the presidency of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation (GCRCF). His tenure at the charitable foundation will begin in early to mid-July.

Under his leadership, the college has added faculty, enhanced academic programs, upgraded technology, built three buildings and renovated numerous others, and is nearing the successful completion of the largest campaign in Cornell history. The Garner presidency has also been marked by trust and transparency.

“Les has accomplished a great deal in his tenure as the third-longest serving president in Cornell history,” said Cornell Board of Trustees Chair John Smith. “In the past year, we’ve been able to withstand the most devastating economic recession of our lifetime while completing a historic campaign.

“Les’ move to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation is a wonderful opportunity for him and Katrina, as well as the community of Cedar Rapids as it recovers from the 2008 flood. We now have an opportunity to find a new leader and who will continue the strong institutional momentum fostered during the Garner presidency.”

The GCRCF has lead recovery efforts in the wake of the 2008 floods.

“Leading the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation is a unique opportunity for me,” Garner said. “The Foundation is playing a leadership role in rebuilding and strengthening the Cedar Rapids area in the wake of the 2008 flood. I look forward to my new role in shaping the future of the region.”

The Cornell Board of Trustees will organize the search for a new president. Garner’s 15 years at Cornell is well above the average college presidential term of 8.5 years.

Garner is nationally known in higher education. He serves on the boards of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges & Universities (IAICU), the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church, and the North Central Association Higher Learning Commission. He has served as chair of the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, IAICU, ACM, and of the Iowa College Foundation. He is past-president of the board of the Cedar Rapids Symphony and past-chair of the Board of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Cornell College was founded in 1853 and is a private residential liberal arts college known for its distinctive One Course At A Time academic calendar.

The Fall 2009 Cornell Report magazine profiled Garner extensively. Faculty, staff and alumni all praised the way he led through college through difficult times and worked with others to ensure the college’s growth.

Peter Wilch, vice president for Alumni and College Advancement, said of Garner’s 15 years at Cornell: “People will look at Les Garner and say that was one of the great times in Cornell’s history.”

For the complete profile of Garner from the Cornell Report, click here.