New college president named: Byers to lead Storm


Caleb Geer

Jay Byers was named to be the 25th president of Simpson College on May 12 at a Board of Trustees meeting. He will officially take the office on Aug. 1.

by Caleb Geer, Editor-in-Chief

The search for the 25th president of Simpson College was officially concluded on May 12 with the college’s Board of Trustees naming an alumnus of the institution, Jay Byers ‘93, as the president-elect who will take office on Aug. 1, after the current president, Marsha Kelliher, retires this summer as announced earlier this year.

Byers has been a member of Simpson’s Board of Trustees since 2012 and has taught on campus as an adjunct professor as well. Most notably, aside from many other achievements and roles held, Byers has served as CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership for the past 18 years.

“The success of the partnership to influence such positive growth and development throughout Des Moines and the surrounding areas is truly a testament to Jay’s innovative and collaborative style,” Terry Handley, Board of Trustees Chair, said during Byers’ introductory news conference held in Hubbell Hall on May 17.

Collaboration and relationship-building are two big skills that stood out to many when observing Byers’ strengths as a leader and candidate for the college’s presidency.

“Jay has built his career on creating partnerships that advance innovative leadership. Those relationship and collaborative skills are so important to us. Rebuilding campus and community relationships was actually the first priority listed in the prospectus that went out at the start of the search,” Vice President for Student Development and Planning Heidi Levine said.

Through his impressive work in the Des Moines area, Levine also said that he brings an extensive network of connections that will be increasingly useful in building and extending academic, co curricular and other opportunities.

During his first public speech as president-elect of the college on May 17, Byers reminisced on his journey to Simpson as an undergraduate student. “I remember the campus looking like what I thought a college campus should look like,” he said. “I soon realized that I had clearly made the right choice as my experience at Simpson as a student far exceeded my expectations.”

During his time at Simpson as a student, Byers was a member of Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity and, while continuing to stay involved with the Simpson chapter, served on the ATO National Board of Trustees.

Multiple Simpson undergraduate ATO members attended the news conference of their notable alumni, including Qwinton Wilder, who will be a senior this fall. 

“I love having an ATO as president. It is really nice to have more of a personal relation with the leader of the college. I think he can relate to the students overall. Having a Greek Life alumni will help being involved with all of Greek Life,” he said.

Byers said that he is very excited for Simpson’s future, which he will continue to play a large role in.

“During my service on the Simpson College Board of Trustees, I’ve gained a front-row view of the exciting momentum that continues to grow here on campus,” he said. He went on to cite how Simpson was ranked number one value in Iowa for private higher education by Money Magazine for 2022 as well as discussing renovations that will take place or are currently taking place on campus.

As he neared the end of his introductory speech, Byers emphasized his commitment to Simpson and everyone attached to the college.

“As your next president, I’m fully committed to being highly visible on campus and in the community. Building on our welcoming, caring and inclusive campus community and learning environment. Creating a culture of engagement, open communication, excitement and fun,” he said.

Byers emphasized strengthening relationships with longtime stakeholders of the college as well as the community. He acknowledged the difficulties faced by higher education and said that it is up to all involved with the college to maximize the college’s current momentum. 

He finished with a call to action before stepping away from the microphone. 

“We have the opportunity to make Simpson College the best small liberal arts college in the Midwest, but it’s going to take all of us working together. Together, we can tell the Simpson story far and wide. Together, we can all do our part to help with recruitment, retention and identifying new resources,” he said. “Together, we can and will take Simpson College to new heights, so let’s make it happen. Roll Storm.”

After speaking at the news conference, Byers was congratulated by and spoke personally with members of the college’s faculty and staff, students and members of the community.