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By Paul Bradley  /  
2011 May 16 - 12:00 am

Leadership Is Family Affair For Father-and-Son Presidents

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Dan Kinney the younger and Dan Kinney the elder show their name tags at the American Association of Community Colleges convention in New Orleans.

Dan Kinney is president of Iowa Western Community College.

Dan Kinney is president of Iowa Central Community College.

You read that right; Iowa Western’s Kinney is the father of Iowa Central’s Kinney. They appear to be the only father/son combination leading community colleges in the country.

It’s a rewarding experience for both men, but can lead to some confusion. As they made the rounds at the American Association of Community Colleges convention in New Orleans, some folks did a double-take upon seeing their nearly identical name tags.

“The fact our names are the same and the names of the colleges we lead are very similar confuses people,” Dan Kinney the elder said in an email. “He gets my mail and I get his quite frequently. After the confusion people are curious about how we both came to be community college presidents and how it works for the two of us to be in the same state.”

Kinney, 64, has been president of Iowa Central since 1994. He previously was president of Coffeyville Community College, where his son earned an associate of arts degree in general studies in 1990. The elder Kinney retired in 2001, with the rank of colonel, from the Army National Guard, after more than 30 years of service..

In addition to education, military experience provides another bond between father and son.

The younger Kinney, 41, served 17 years in the Kansas Army National Guard and spent most of 2005 commanding an engineering unit in Iraq, service for which he was awarded a Bronze Star.

“Honestly, I never thought I would be in the military as my father was for over 30
years, but it was when he became a battalion commander that I decided to join,” the younger Kinney wrote in an email.

Their bond was cemented on the day the younger Kinney took his oath as an officer.

“My happiest time in the Army was when young Dan was commissioned a second lieutenant and I was allowed the opportunity to administer the commissioning oath,” the elder Kinney said. “I had to choke back tears to not look like a sentimental lieutenant colonel. Young Dan had the same problem. I was and am very proud that he wanted to serve as an Army officer, but I had serious second thoughts when he was in Iraq. It was entirely his decision to serve in the Army, but if something had happened to him I would have never been able to get over the guilt.”

The younger Kinney was named president of Iowa Central in 2009, selected from among four finalists vying for the job. He previously had been vice president of student services at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff, Neb. His interest in community colleges started early. He decided to pursue a community college career rather than follow a path at the University of Kansas, where he had earned his master’s degree and worked as assistant director of admission and scholarships.

“During my early years I thought many times about going back to work in the community college system, as I grew up with both my mother and father working at various community colleges,” he said. “Mainly, I wanted to go back to the community college system because of smaller size and the more one-on-one that you get with community college students. I was given that opportunity in 1999 as I accepted a position with Allen County Community College (Kansas) as their director of admissions and marketing. I never regretted leaving the university system for the community college system because of the impact I see that we make with students.”

Today, the two college presidents rely on one another for advice and support.

“I rely on my father all the time for advice and guidance,” Kinney the younger said. “I believe it is important to have mentors but it is wonderful to have a mentor who is a parent because of the brutal honest truth that he will provide. We talk, if not daily, a minimum five days a week and sometimes a couple times each day. We share things that we see are happening and each provide our feedback on how we see it turning out. Sometimes we agree to disagree because we see how it will individually impact each college that employs us. It has been nice to run up against something and have the opportunity to call and get some input from my father.”

Said his father: “I frequently run ideas or issues past him for an informed opinion. I trust his judgment and he is not afraid to tell me when I am wrong.”

Both men describe themselves as competitive and enjoy the athletic rivalries between their two schools. Iowa Central started a football team in 2009, and the winner of the annual football game between the two is awarded the Kinney Cup.

Kinney the younger owns current bragging rights. In an upset, the IWCC squad won last year’s game 36-0.

“It has always been fun to have a little competition between us and it really brings us closer together,” Kinney the younger said. “It also has brought our schools closer together because when we are playing Iowa Western, everybody has something to say or follows the games a little bit closer than normal games. But in the long run we are happy for each other’s teams and if we aren’t playing each other we are then cheering for the other team. In fact when I call them, he and my mother already know who we beat as they search for my team scores or even listen to the games on line. The funny thing about this, my two young daughters love to give their grandpa grief when our team beats his team.”

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