Rob Denson, the 17-year president of the Des Moines Area Community College system, was recently inducted into the prestigious 2020 class of “Sages Over 70” by DSM Magazine.
Joe Pugel of Newton, chairperson of the DMACC Board of Trustees, presented a plaque to Denson in recognition of his commitment the Iowa education. The presentation was made during a trustees meeting held virtually and originating from the Eldon Leonard Board Room in Ankeny.
The plaque reads: “President Denson was selected for his demonstrated leadership, many contributions to community betterment and his tireless advocacy of students, businesses and the state of Iowa.”
The five other inductees into the 2020 “Sages over 70 included Allison Fleming, community volunteer and philanthropist; Robert Pulver, retired founder, president and CEO of All-State Industries; John Ruan III, chairman of Ruan Transportation and the Bankers Trust board of directors; Dr. Robert Shaw, retired neonatologist at Blank Children’s Hospital; and Pam Williams, co-founder and director of the Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corps.
Denson grew up on a farm near Homestead, Iowa, south of the Amana Colonies, and graduated from Iowa Valley High School in Marengo. The first native-born Iowan to be president of DMACC, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics in 1970 at Iowa State University and a master’s in higher education administration in 1972 from ISU.
He worked as an assistant dean at ISU for three years before moving to Florida to serve as an assistant dean of students. He earned a J.D degree from the University of Florida Law School in 1979.
Denson served for three years as an associate attorney for the University of Florida before entering private practice for 16 years. He is a board-certified civil trial lawyer. He returned to education in 1996, when he was appointed assistant to the president and dean for institutional advancement at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida.
Denson relocated to Iowa in 1998, assuming the residency of Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar. He became the DMACC president in 2003.
In addition to his DMACC position, Denson serves on the National Board of Gateway to College, a drop-out recovery program; the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and Executive Committee; the National STEM connector Innovation Task Force; and the Food and Ag Council; and the National Leadership Council of Opportunity Nation.
Denson also chairs the National STEM connector Higher Education Council and serves on the boards of Iowa Student Loan Liquidity, the Iowa Agricultural Literacy Foundation, the Technology Association of Iowa, the Iowa Quality Center, the Agri-Business Association of Iowa, the Iowa Direct Caregivers Association, the Iowa Rural Development Council, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the Iowa Innovation Council and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
Denson and his wife, Pat Denson, have two children and five grandchildren.