Retiring Coe President James Phifer receives special recognition at Coe commencement ceremony

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2013-05-15 13:58:34 - General

Coe President
James R. Phifer

Coe President James Phifer, who is retiring in June following 28 years of service, received special recognition at the college's commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 12. Coe Board of Trustees Chair Dave Carson, class of 1972, surprised Phifer by awarding him both President Emeritus and Professor of History Emeritus status.

Phifer has served as president of Coe since 1995, having joined the college in 1985 as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. Dr. Phifer received his bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in the field of English history. His research interest centers in law and politics of 17th century England.

Dr. Phifer began his teaching career at Wayne State College, where he also served as the director of the British Institute. From there, he assumed the position of dean of arts and sciences at the Institute of Technology at the State University of New York - Utica. He has taught in the Honors Program at Coe, and served as an occasional speaker in Coe's public lecture series, Thursday Forum.

Among his professional experiences, Dr. Phifer has served as a consultant-evaluator for the North Central Association; as chair of the Deans' Advisory Board of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest; as chair of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Presidents' Council; as chair of the Presidents' Council of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest; and as chair of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

In the community, Dr. Phifer has served on the boards of directors of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and the Cedar Rapids Symphony. He is currently on the board of Bankers Trust, Cedar Rapids.

"President Phifer's leadership at Coe has been no less than extraordinary," said Carson. "With a career dedicated to teaching, he has been an unwavering advocate for strong academics in the best tradition of Coe College. Under his leadership, Coe has focused on maintaining a quality faculty to provide students with a superior liberal arts educational experience. The $150 million raised during the Phifer presidency exceeds the sum of all other Coe campaigns combined, resulting in a significantly enhanced endowment and a solid financial foundation for the college. President Phifer spearheaded the college's move to the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which augmented the recruitment of bright student-athletes and has led to broad-based competitive success."

Carson also noted that the student body has grown by 30 percent in the Phifer era, and the academic quality of incoming students has risen steadily, as Coe is now recognized as one of the most selective colleges in Iowa. Finally, President Phifer embarked on a $30 million building program that has nearly doubled the size of the campus, with a focus on new and renovated academic, residential, admission and recreational facilities to enhance the student experience.

"While these impressive achievements provide only an overview of the successes of James Phifer, suffice to say that the college would not be where it is today without his steadfast leadership, and his work has directly impacted a generation of Kohawks," said Carson.

Coe has been a family affair for the Phifers. Jim's wife, Linnie, has been an integral member of the Coe community over the years, organizing gatherings and representing Coe at dozens of events annually at Pleasant Hill, on campus and across the country. Quite fittingly, Linnie was recognized with the Eliza Hickok Kesler Outstanding Service Award during last year's commencement ceremony for her tireless efforts to advance the cause of the college.

Jim and Linnie have two daughters who have also been involved and engaged with Coe over the years.  Trystan Phifer O'Leary, her husband Brendan O'Leary and their daughter, Madeline, and son, Jacob; and Tamsyn Phifer Johnston, her husband Brannan Johnston and their daughter, Savannah, were also present for the commencement ceremony.