Howard Keim, vice president of academics and student development and an associate professor of communications at Tabor College, has been named the “candidate of choice” for the open presidential spot at Hesston College.
The college has had an interim president since July 2003, when Loren Swartzendruber left to become president at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia.
Peter Wiebe has served as Hesston College’s interim president since July 2003.
The announcement came from Norm Yoder, chair of the presidential search committee, and Arlan Yoder, chair of the Hesston College Board of Overseers.
“I’m really honored to be considered because I love Hesston,” said Keim, who lives in Hesston. “I’m loyal to Hesston College because it’s my alma mater, and it’s a school I’ve always thought highly of.”
Keim is a 1972 graduate of Hesston College. He taught there from 1987 to 1996, and directed the pastoral ministries program.
Keim’s wife, Tami, graduated from Hesston College and has directed its Early Childhood Education Program since 1987.
The Keims, who were married in 1972, have two daughters. Tonya Bartel is a Hesston graduate. Talashia Yoder, a 2004 Tabor College graduate, directed Hesston’s theater program last year.
“My family has been very supportive of my decision,” Keim said. “It would bring changes to our lives, and we talked about that. The life of a president is different than the life of a dean.”
Keim received a doctoral degree in communication studies from the University of Kansas. He also earned a master’s degree in interpersonal and public communication and a bachelor’s degree in speech and dramatic arts from Central Michigan University. He also has studied at the University of Iowa.
Keim has been a professor and administrator at Tabor College since 1996, except for one year as field services director for Communities in Schools of Kansas.
Keim was pastor of Kalona Mennonite Church in Iowa from 1979 to 1987 and youth minister at Fairview Mennonite Church in Michigan prior to that.
Keim has served his congregation, Whitestone Mennonite Church in Hesston, as an elder.
“It was not an easy choice because I love what I do at Tabor,” Keim said. “It has wonderful faculty, and I enjoy academic work, but what drew me is that it’s Hesston and I have a lot of respect for the college.”
Keim is scheduled to visit the campus this week to meet with several groups and individuals.
Then, the search committee will seek input from those meeting with Keim and make a final recommendation early this fall.
The president is appointed by the Mennonite Education Agency with the recommendation of the Hesston Board.
“I was not searching for a presidency necessarily. It’s not like I was trying to cap my career,” Keim said. “When the committee called and approached me about it, it wasn’t an easy decision. But the more I thought about it, the more excited I became. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“If the Mennonite Education Agency board sees fit to accept the recommendation of the search committee and appoint him president, we will miss Howard at Tabor College,” said Tabor College president Larry Nikkel.
“From my own experience, as well as the feedback from the faculty, Howard has just done an outstanding job here. His collaborative style, his knowledge of how organizations function, his ability to be nurturing are all things that have benefitted Tabor greatly.
“We have grown in every way due to his work and service here. While we’re sad to think about his potential leaving, we’re delighted that his gifts are recognized by others and he will be allowed to serve in a new way.”