Longtime chair steps down

David Peter, third from right, with his plaque signifying his longterm service on the Neosho County Community College Board of Trustees. Pictured, from left,  Dr. Brian Inbody, NCCC president, and trustees Charles Boaz, Lori Kiblinger, Peter, new chair Dennis Peters and Kevin Berthot.

Peters to lead Board of Trustees

DAVID MINK

Special to the Tribune

When David Peter took over as the Neosho County Community College Board of Trustees chair in 2002, the college was facing some difficult times.

“We had some leadership issues, we had some monetary issues, and we had a very dissatisfied faculty,” Peter said. “And at the time we were investigated by the Higher Learning Commission and put on probation.”

In fact, when Peter ran for the board of trustees in 1999, there were 18 other candidates vying for three seats on the board.

“There’s a direct correlation between how healthy a college is and how many people run for the board,” said Brian Inbody, NCCC president. “But since 2004, I don’t think we’ve had a single contested election. I think that’s a tribute to the board and David’s leadership through some rocky times.”

Today NCCC has turned itself around. It now holds a 10-year accreditation through the HLC, and is consistently ranked among the top 10 community colleges in Kansas. The college was ranked sixth in the state by Niche.com, a website used by more than 50 million people last year that helps users find and rank schools and neighborhoods. Additionally, Schools.com ranked NCCC No. 8 in its best Kansas community college list. 

The college also has an economic impact of more than $30 million on the surrounding region and supports more than 850 jobs, according to a recent impact analysis by Economic Modeling LLC. 

During the board of trustees’ regular Jan. 13 meeting, Peter handed over the position as chair for the first time in 18 years. Taking the helm was fellow Trustee Dennis Peters, who’s served on the board since 2010. 

“Dennis is imminently qualified to sit in that seat, and so is Lori (Kiblinger, the board’s new vice chair),” said Peter. “Dennis will do it like it needs to be done, and that’s easy for me to say.”

One of the responsibilities of the chair is to serve as the face of the college throughout the state. Peters has long served that role already, acting as board liaison to the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees. 

Peters accepts the position during a unique time for the college, having come so far from its dark days in the early 2000s. During those years as the board of trustees tried to rebuild the school’s reputation and stability, it hired current president Brian Inbody and reviewed its own role as a governing body to the school.

“The board adopted a policy where it has one employee – the president,” Inbody said. “And the president operates the college. The board holds that president accountable and also sets the general direction, and David was a huge part of establishing that model.”

The board also set and annually reviews a 10-year master plan for the school – a plan which is actually built into the contract of the president.

“We hold the president accountable – and only the president – for what goes on here, besides ourselves,” Peter said. “We don’t take calls from other employees, we don’t give advice to other employees. We communicate strictly with the president.”

Peters said the college has quite a lot to look forward to in the coming years, including ongoing renovations to buildings on campus as well as a possible re-envisioning of the school’s housing for students.

“Students are looking for a different type of housing, not the typical dorm that we’re all familiar with,” he said. “So we’re exploring that possibility and looking into that type of modern, unique housing.”

Inbody said the college and the board owed Peter a debt of gratitude for his years of service as chair. 

“David provided stability, leadership and phenomenal judgment through one of the worst times this college has ever had,” he said.

But he noted that – just like the board’s mission statement says – the board only has power when it works together.

“I am one of the most fortunate presidents in the state, because I have a rock-star board of trustees who understands their roles, who has the best interests of the college at heart, and who don’t have any secret agendas,” he said. “What they want is what is best for the community and what’s best for the students.”

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