• This week, DMACC President Rob Denson officially becomes the longest-serving president in the College’s 57-year history.

  • Denson marked his first day at DMACC on Nov. 3, 2003, and during his tenure, the College has grown by more than 50 percent by focusing on quality faculty, staff, administration and instruction; keeping tuition low; and developing public and private partnerships.

  • Denson, who recently celebrated his 76th birthday, grew up on a farm near Homestead, Iowa, and is the first native-born Iowan to serve as DMACC’s President.

  • “I’m as excited and energized to be in this role today as I was my first day on the job,” Denson said.

DMACC President Rob Denson has achieved a significant milestone by becoming the longest-serving president in DMACC’s 57-year history, surpassing the 20-year mark that former DMACC President Joseph Borgen achieved during his tenure as the College’s top executive from Sept. 1, 1981, through Oct. 1, 2001.

Denson marked his first Monday in office — Nov. 3, 2003 — by driving nearly 200 miles, accompanied by his wife Pat, to visit all six DMACC campuses in a single day.

“Everyone was welcoming and eager to talk about their Campus,” Denson said. “The pride across DMACC was evident."

“I’m honored to be only the fourth President of DMACC in the College’s 57-year history and very proud to be the first native-born Iowan to serve as DMACC’s President,” Denson said. “Also, being the longest-serving President is important to me and it went very fast. I’m as excited and energized to be in this role today as I was my first day on the job.”

Iowa roots, passion for DMACC

Current DMACC Board President Joe Pugel of Newton joined the DMACC Board of Directors in 1997 and has served as Board President since January 2003, making him the longest-serving Board President in DMACC history. His service has encompassed all of President Denson’s years at DMACC.

Pugel was on the presidential search committee to replace former DMACC President Joseph Borgen, who has since passed away. Pugel said the national search was similar to the procedure used by the Iowa Board of Regents.

“We had more than 100 applications,” Pugel said. “A committee of 32 faculty, staff and students narrowed the list to five. Those finalists were from Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Texas.

“Rob was selected because of his leadership, his background with community colleges and the great job he had done at Northeast Iowa Community College. He was the most dynamic of the finalists.”

DMACC Board Member Madelyn Tursi, who is the board’s longest-serving member, said she remembers Denson’s interview well.

“Rob had the best qualifications, he interviewed well, and he was known from his involvement in the IACCT (Iowa Association of Community College Trustees) presidential group,” Tursi said. “He had Iowa roots.”

Tursi said Denson is passionate about DMACC and it shows in work ethic and results.

“Rob starts work before sunrise and has frequent evening events and commitments,” Tursi said. “He’s engaged and connected. The results speak for themselves.”

A sampling of Denson’s achievements over his two decades at DMACC includes:

  • New Career Academies

President Denson was instrumental in creating and building DMACC’s Career Academies where high school students can learn a trade. From Health Sciences and Auto Mechanics to Building Trades, Culinary and more, the programs in these academies introduce high school students to in-demand careers. Collaboration with local school districts offers state-of-the-art equipment that most districts couldn’t afford on their own. Today, there are DMACC Career Academies in Ames, Newton, Southridge (Des Moines), Perry and most recently, Templeton.

  • Growth Agenda

President Denson has worked to expand the capacity of DMACC so the College can serve more students with quality programming. While many colleges and universities have experienced a drop in enrollment over the past decade, DMACC credit enrollment has grown by more than 50 percent from 21,913 students in 2003 to 34,206 in 2023. As reported by the Iowa Department of Education, DMACC’s Fall 2023 term enrollment is up 12.9 percent over last fall and up five percent over fall 2019, the last pre-pandemic fall term.

  • Student Amenities

President Denson has focused on enhancing the student experience by building and remodeling DMACC facilities. In less than a decade, the College has invested more than $100 million in new and remodeled classrooms, recreation, and study areas across the College.

  • Education Leadership

President Denson has been at the forefront of important issues impacting the College and education as a whole, serving on both state and national councils and boards. Additionally, he has helped forge partnerships with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, Amazon, Google, Facebook, the National Science Foundation, Goldman Sachs and the Lumina Foundation, among others.

  • Creating a Welcoming College Environment

From sponsoring a DMACC Cultural and Equity Audit to incorporating support for all students in the College’s Strategic Plan and implementing hiring practices to developing specific plans to support and assist all communities, President Denson has been a tireless advocate of creating a welcoming environment for anyone who is interested in pursuing their career goals.

  • Building a Financial Bedrock

Under President Denson’s leadership, DMACC has the highest bond rating and the lowest property-tax levy of any community college in Iowa, while also maintaining its commitment to offering the lowest tuition and fees of any college or university in the state.

“Rob is one of the most dedicated individuals I know,” Pugel said. “He was clearly the best fit for DMACC 20 years ago and continues to be today. Under his watch, and to his credit, DMACC has grown beyond all expectations.

“The expansion and reach of DMACC has been unprecedented, and this fall, DMACC has reached enrollment numbers that exceed pre-pandemic levels.”

Tursi added, “Rob continues to work toward making DMACC more efficient and the best place for students to continue their post-secondary education. With all of this, Rob is approachable to students, faculty, staff, business leaders and the general public. He is DMACC’s constant cheerleader and recruiter.”

Prior to coming to DMACC, Denson served as president of Northeast Iowa Community College for five years. He grew up on a farm near Homestead, Iowa, south of the Amana Colonies, and started his own education in a one-room schoolhouse. He went on to graduate from high school in Marengo, Iowa, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and Economics, as well as a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration, from Iowa State University.

Denson worked at Iowa State University as an Assistant Dean for three years before moving to Florida, where he served as an Assistant Dean of Students at the University of Florida. While working full-time, he graduated from Law School at the University of Florida in 1979 and was an Associate University Attorney for three years before operating his own law practice for 16 years. He is a board-certified civil trial lawyer. Denson also holds a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and often drives a DMACC tractor-trailer in community parades.

“Pat and I are very happy to be back in Iowa and at DMACC,” Denson said.


Rob Denson, DMACC President, (515) 360-7911, rjdenson@dmacc.edu

Todd Jones, DMACC Marketing & Public Relations, (515) 964-6242, tgjones@dmacc.edu