OTTUMWA — When Jim Lindenmayer started as a college recruiter more than 30 years ago, he never pictured retiring from Indian Hills Community College as president.
"I never had any designs on being president until I applied for the job," said Lindenmayer in his office Tuesday.
The Marengo native, who will retire this year, began his IHCC tenure in 1980 as the adult education coordinator. He served as a vice president for 18 years.
"It wasn't the fulfillment of a goal. You just plug away, doing the best job you can," he said.
That job included mentoring young educators who showed potential, leading the school through record-breaking attendance and hammering at doors until the U.S. Department of Labor reopened competition for Job Corps Centers.
One thing Lindenmayer hasn't done is change his demeanor. He's earned a reputation for appearing calm, even in tense or emotionally charged situations. And though he regularly meets with everyone from entry-level workers to U.S. senators, he's not known as a "smooth talker" or a slick "schmoozer." At times he has been criticized, he said, for his perhaps-too-quiet march toward school and community goals.
"You go about things in a matter-of-fact way and do what needs to be done by putting together people who can do the job and then move on to the next project," he said. "But I think that's the culture here, it's not just me. We're busy doing stuff rather than blowing our own horn."
Lindenmayer agreed that one way the school has found success is by focusing beyond the gates of the campus and beyond a sole focus on surviving as a school. They have been predicting and reacting to the needs of their community. For example, the 10-county area needed nurses. IHCC built a large health program after asking hospitals and certification boards exactly what they want potential employees to know. The program is number one for placement among community colleges in Iowa.