Keith Stover, president at South Central College, still remembers saddling up and taking the reins to head off on horseback for his first day of school in a one-room schoolhouse with his brother.
Stover describes his one-room schoolhouse days as the beginning of his work in education. Most of those days were spent standing in the corner; as it turns out, he was a bit of a disruption to the class.
“I am very social,” Stover said with a laugh. “At school, I would talk to anyone within speaking distance. So, I stood most of first grade in the corner.”
Entering the education field as a professional was a natural move for Stover; his mother’s side of the family had a lot of educators, he loved working with kids and he watched his father work as a 4H Leader for 20 years. Those elements paired with his social nature added up to an education career, Stover said.
Stover attended college in South Dakota and graduated with a degree in education. He then went on to teach industrial technology to middle school students in Brookings, S.D. for four years before taking his first administrative position at the age of 27, after he received his master’s degree in educational administration.
Stover served as the director at a number of different vocational schools over the years. In 1986, Stover served as the director of Flint Hills Technical College in Kansas. It was there that Stover led his first transformation of a school from a technical school to a degree-granting college. The transformation brought knowledge that would prove useful at his next position as South Central College’s president.
Stover came to SCC — then known as South Central Technical College — in 1999. In 2005, Stover got the ball rolling on the transition of South Central with the goal of expanding the mission and liberal arts offerings available there.
“We expanded the mission of the college to increase the percentage of students who chose to go [to SCC],” said Stover. “We wanted to have some local college options. This was all about creating new opportunity for kids and new opportunity for employers.”
Through Stover’s time at SCC, he also worked to strengthen what he refers to as “the three legs”: healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture.
For example, during Stover’s tenure, SCC collaborated with Minnesota West Community and Technical College and other organizations to create the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture less than a year ago. The center will focus on areas such as innovation, program development and research, and professional preparation and development of agriculturalists and agriculture educators.
Stover has also led the college’s renovation project, which is currently in progress. On May 11, 2012, the Legislature approved the allocation of $13.3 million for SCC’s project. The remodel includes renovating 63,000 square feet of existing campus space and constructing a 17,000 square foot learning resource center and library.
Even while working on all of his different projects through the years, Stover said he tried to keep connected to what really mattered — the students.
“I visit classrooms on campus all the time. I want students to know the president of their college,” said Stover. “After I became an administrator, I didn’t want to lose sight of what was going on in the classroom. I have always enjoyed being around kids; I am going to miss that.”
Despite the joy Stover has always derived from his work in education, he says it is time for him to move on to different challenges. Stover will be retiring as SCC’s president at the end of June.
“Somebody with some innovative new ideas needs to come here,” said Stover. “It’s just time to turn the reins over. I started school with reins in my hand and now it is time to turn to the reins over to someone new.”
Dr. Annette Parker will take those reins as SCC’s president on July 1.
“It is both humbling and a tremendous honor to have been selected to serve with the faculty and staff at this outstanding institution and the communities it serves,” Parker said. “I look forward to our work together in enhancing access, promoting student success, fueling innovation and pursuing excellence in all we do.”
Stover already has a few projects in mind for his retirement. He will travel to spend more time with his twin grandsons, Jacob and Joshua, who are three years old. And he will work on fixing up a 2013 Corvette Grand Sport. Someone crashed into the car while it was sitting at a dealership in Phoenix, Ariz. It only has four miles on it.
“I will only be able to take one grandson for a ride at a time,” said Stover, smiling while he showed off a picture of the Corvette. “It’s a two-seater.”
Reach reporter Ashley Klemer at 333-3132 or follow her on Twitter.com @AshleyKlemer.