Q&A with a trustee-Tom Urban

Q&A with a trustee-Tom Urban


Tom Urban

Simpson graduate? If so, what year?

Harvard University

How long have you been on the board?

Two years

What is your current job?

I’m retired. I was president and chairman of Pioneer International.

What do you see for the future of the college?

The college is doing extremely important things right now. Very few colleges this size have the courage to totally redo their curriculum around the requirements of college graduates in the 21st century. They’ve done a terrific job of that.


Secondly, each of the departments is now doing a really interesting job of defining what their particular advantage might be over the competition. The math department is doing some very unique things. The language department is doing some really exciting things. These departments are now reporting back to the board about what they are doing, and the specific things that they do that might differentiate them from different colleges and universities in Iowa as well as other colleges and universities nationally. It’s exciting.


The Board of Trustees has been very supportive of the physical improvement structure here at Simpson. The new center I think is going to be extraordinary and very important in recruiting students. The staff is doing a terrific job now of rebranding the intuition, and working really hard at recruiting and retention. All of which have been very important as the target population in Iowa has sort of shrunk over the last decade. Since we drew a lot of students from Iowa that has put pressure on admissions. This year, the signals are really quite strong right now in terms of new admissions, and so we’re excited by that. On the other hand, they were strong last year, so we’ll have to wait and see.


I have found the staff here to be very responsive to both recruitment, retention and the financial condition of the institution. It’s a great staff.

What would you change about the school?

I would add a lot of physical facilities if we had the capitol. We clearly need a significant investment in the whole communications department. We could stand an investment in the business school. We probable need a large gymnasium. These are lots of physical needs, but that’s true of almost all small colleges. They all go through these periods when they grow and go down and grow again. That’s just a question of raising money, and that’s not easy at a college this size to find the capitol to do the needed facilities. So you substitute quality of teaching and quality of the college experience for, in some cases, a lack of facilities. That is true of many many small schools.