Larry Ebbers, University Professor in the School of Education, retires after five decades of dedicated service to Iowa State University. Photo by Ryan Riley.
Larry Ebbers, University Professor in the School of Education, retires after five decades of dedicated service to Iowa State University. Photo by Ryan Riley.

“Legend” in higher education ends chapter at Iowa State

An Iowa State University professor hailed as one of the “giants” in higher education nationwide — and considered the face of community college leadership development in Iowa — will retire next month.

Larry Ebbers, a University Professor and alumnus of the School of Education, began working at Iowa State in 1965. For more than five decades, he has advanced higher education, earning statewide and national recognition for his leadership in community college initiatives.

In 2014, Ebbers was one of three leaders nationwide — along with Gunder Myran of Michigan and Jerry Sue Thornton of Ohio — recognized with the national Leadership Award from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

“The word ‘legend’ is not too big to describe these three giants in the world of higher education,” said Walter Bumphus, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Community Colleges. “We owe Larry, Gunder, and Jerry Sue a debt of gratitude for the pathways they’ve created for future students and leaders.”

A retirement reception honoring Ebbers will be held 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. May 2 in the South Ballroom and Great Hall of the Memorial Union at Iowa State University, with a program at 4:15 p.m.

Developing community college leaders

Ebbers is a visionary who saw a need to increase diversity in the ranks of Iowa’s community colleges. In 1989, he established the Leadership Institute for a New Century (LINC), to enhance leadership opportunities for women and minorities in community colleges.

As a companion to that institute, Ebbers also created the Community College Leadership Initiative Consortium (CLIC), which provides leadership development for upper-level administrators in community colleges.

“Larry has been the greatest single resource Iowa community colleges have had,” said Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College and an alumnus who in 1972 earned his master’s degree in higher education administration.

Denson praised Ebbers for his personal presence and engagement in all of his efforts, including recruiting and filling many of the highest leadership positions in community colleges across the state and giving faculty and staff a platform for professional growth.

“Next to former Iowa Senate President Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg) — who’s been referred to as the ‘father’ of Iowa’s community college system — I know of no person who has had more of an impact on the Iowa community college system than Larry Ebbers,” Denson said.

To honor Ebbers, the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees not only awarded him with its Honorary Trustee Award this year, but renamed the award after him. It’s now called the Larry H. Ebbers Award.

“Dr. Larry Ebbers is an extraordinary individual qualified to receive this award for his exemplary service and dedication to Iowa’s community colleges in the areas of board governance and in developing innumerable Iowa community college leaders,” said MJ Dolan, executive director of the Iowa Association of Community Colleges.

“Dr. Ebbers’ work exemplifies the heart of the IACCT Honorary Trustee Award, and the Community College Presidents’ and IACCT Board were proud to rename it the Larry H. Ebbers Award,” Dolan said.

Building Learning Communities

Ebbers served on the initial group that developed learning communities for Iowa State University, to provide academic and social support for new students beyond the classroom.

Learning communities connect small groups of students with similar academic goals. The students in the learning community take several classes together and sometimes live in the same residence hall. Since they began, Iowa State’s learning communities have become nationally rated and have served over 62,000 students.

“Larry has been deeply involved in the development of the successful learning community program at Iowa State,” said Corly Brooke, the former co-director of learning communities and professor emeritus in human development and family studies.

“I have always appreciated his enthusiasm and support during our initial efforts to develop strong student and academic affairs partnerships that evolved to support learning communities in the 1990s and have continued to contribute to the strength of the program today,” Brooke said. “His ongoing commitment to service and dedication to the enhancement of student learning have had an enduring and positive impact.”

Ebbers even co-authored a book, “The Powerful Potential of Learning Communities,” which offers an in-depth discussion of several approaches to student learning communities, introduces the concept of virtual learning communities, and gives specific suggestions for creating purposeful and powerful learning communities that can promote and optimize student learning.

Dedication to Iowa State

Ebbers began his time at Iowa State University as a student, receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agriculture education and a doctoral degree in higher education.

He has held several positions at Iowa State including assistant dean of the then-College of Education from 1972 through 1985, and associate dean from 1996 through 2000. He was also department chair of the Professional Studies Department from 1985 to 1992 and director of the Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) from 1998 through 2000.

Ebbers has given over 350 presentations to educational groups and published 70 journal articles on issues in higher education.

As a professor at Iowa State, Ebbers taught courses in college organization and administration, curriculum development in colleges, college teaching, and student development theory.

For his dedication in guiding and inspiring countless Iowa State doctoral and master’s students, as well as championing accessible college education for all, Ebbers will this year receive the Faculty-Staff Inspiration Award from the ISU Alumni Association.

“I can think of no other individual in higher education who has done more to make the world a better place by inspiring, supporting, and influencing others,” a nominator wrote.

In recognition of his outstanding service to the university, a full page of the Spring 2016 university commencement program will pay him tribute.

To further honor Ebbers, individuals can contribute to the Larry and Barbara Ebbers Graduate Student Fund through the Iowa State University Foundation. The fund supports fellowships and helps finance program-related student travel and student research.

Donations can be made online or through mailing a check to the Iowa State University Foundation, P.O. Box 2230, Ames, Iowa 50010-2230. Questions may be directed to Molly Parrott, director of development for the College of Human Sciences, 515-294-7437,


Larry Ebbers, University Professor, School of Education, Iowa State University, 515-294-8067,

Walter G. Bumphus, president and chief executive officer, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), 202-728-0200 ext. 235,

MJ Dolan, executive director, Iowa Association of Community College Trustees, 515-282-4692,

Rob Denson, 1972 Iowa State University master’s degree in educational administration, president of Des Moines Area Community College,

Corly Brooke, former co-Director of Learning Communities and professor emeritus, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University,

Molly Parrott, director of development, College of Human Sciences; Iowa State University Foundation; 515-294-7437,

Elizabeth Peterson, graduate assistant writer, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-9424,