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Byers named Simpson College’s 25th president


Jay Byers, the president and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, will join Simpson College as its 25th president, the college announced today. He will succeed Marsha Kelliher, who announced in January that she would be retiring this year.

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Jay Byers

The college’s board of trustees confirmed Byers as Simpson’s next president on Friday.

Byers will be leaving the Partnership after 18 years. He joined the Partnership in 2005 as senior vice president for government relations and public policy and became CEO in 2012. He consolidated his role in 2021, adding the title of president after Gene Meyer retired.

“Jay’s visionary leadership has had an enormous impact on Greater Des Moines, and we have been extraordinarily fortunate to have him at the helm of The Partnership for over 11 years,” Mike McCoy, Partnership board chair and CEO of NCMIC, said in a statement released by the Partnership. “He has helped transform our community, helping put DSM on the map, while also fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation.”

Before joining the Partnership, Byers served as district director for then-U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell.

Byers has deep ties to Simpson.

He received his Bachelor of Arts in political science from Simpson in 1993 before receiving his law degree from the University Iowa in 1996. He later served as an adjunct professor at Simpson from 2001 to 2004. He currently sits on the college’s board of trustees.

“Jay is a passionate Simpson alumnus who has been one of the College’s most prominent ambassadors throughout his distinguished career,” Terry Handley, chair of the board of trustees, wrote in an email to Simpson faculty announcing Byers’ selection. “I have personally witnessed the depth of his devotion to advancing Simpson’s mission during his 11 years of service as a board member. He is a visionary leader, as evidenced by his profound accomplishments as president and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. He is ready to build on the significant strategic momentum we have created together with President Kelliher through uniquely challenging times.”

According to the email, the search for a new president drew 92 applicants. The search committee narrowed the list to 10 people who were chosen for virtual interviews. Following interviews with finalists by multiple stakeholder groups, “the committee confidently determined that Jay was the best positioned to lead Simpson College — and the board wholeheartedly agrees,” Handley wrote.

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Marsha Kelliher

Kelliher announced in January that she would retire as president of the Indianola-based private college.

Kelliher joined Simpson as its first female president in 2020. Before joining Simpson, she was president and CEO of Walsh College, a private business college in Troy, Mich.

Following Kelliher’s announcement, Simpson’s board of trustees said it would establish a search committee to lead a national search for her successor. The search committee was made up of members of the board of trustees and faculty and staff representatives. A student advisory committee was also formed to give its input.

Byers will be formally introduced as Simpson’s president-elect during a news conference and reception at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Hubbell Hall on the Simpson campus.

“It has been a true honor and privilege to work at the Greater Des Moines Partnership and serve the Greater Des Moines region for the past 18 years,” Byers said in the Partnership’s release. “I could not be more proud of our organization’s and region’s record of economic and community development achievement during this time.”

According to the Partnership, its executive committee will meet this week to review its succession plan and begin the process of selecting a new president and CEO.


Michael Crumb

Michael Crumb is a senior staff writer at Business Record. He covers economic development, transportation, energy & environment, culture, sales & marketing.

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