As the seniors in the class of 2017 finish their final courses at Hastings College, President Don Jackson will join them in embarking on a new life adventure. While the seniors take their first step into the professional world, Jackson looks to take the final steps of his professional career.
“I shared with the board my intention to retire from my position as president of Hastings College at the conclusion of the upcoming academic year,” Jackson wrote in a campus-wide email sent on June 30, 2016.
Jackson said his presidency was intended to create stability during a tumultuous transition at the college. When he first assumed the leadership role, his primary focuses were to move the college forward and rebuild communication between administration, students and the larger community.
Jackson’s term as president started in 2013 under unique circumstances when then-president Dennis Trotter resigned unexpectedly in early February.
“I think the board felt like they really needed to make a decision fairly quickly and not have a situation where there was a long period of uncertainty,” said Dr. Gary Johnson, vice president of academic affairs and provost. “I know that the board and leadership team had a great deal of trust in Don.”
Hal Dittmer, then-chair of the board and Moss, then-vice chair, looked to Jackson to fill the empty spot. Jackson was well-equipped to take the management role as he had experience serving on the board of trustees as vice chair, and worked as the chief operating officer of the Easter Seals nonprofit. Only four months before, he left the board for a “retirement position” as the lead on the administrative fundraising team on Trotter’s cabinet.
“I was certainly willing to do it, and honored that the board asked me to do it, and I realized how great the need was at a time like this,” Jackson said.
Jackson also brought valuable experience as a HC alumnus, using his deep understanding of the campus culture to help “heal” an anxious campus.
“He recognizes the culture and he’s going to build on it because of the benefits that provided for him (as a student),” Moss said. “It’s really a point of reference to be able to utilize the culture that’s in place and keep it going.”
Jackson helped rebuild the traditional culture that had faced changes under Trotter’s administration, said Moss. The new president rebranded the cabinet as a “leadership team” and included students in campus affairs with his open door policy.
“It’s been great to have that kind of open door. For me, it brings me much closer to the students and what they are really wrestling with, what their dreams are and what they are working toward,” Jackson said. “That’s very special to me … and for me, it would be very difficult to actually do the job if I wasn’t connected to the very people that we are here to serve.”
According to Johnson, Jackson’s presidency “set the stage” for positive progress at HC by re-establishing success with fundraising and enrollment,. Now, he passes the baton to incoming president Dr. Travis Feezell and transitions into full retirement.
Jackson said he hopes to maintain his relationship with HC and already plans to return next year for Homecoming. He will also have the opportunity to attend future board meetings as the board granted him honorary trustee status in April.