HASTINGS — If Rich Lloyd’s lifelong ambition was to become a college president, one might think he would be pretty pleased with himself at this point.
Lloyd, after all, now leads two institutions of higher learning at the same time. He’s served as president of Bryan College of Health Sciences in Lincoln since 2016, and has six months under his belt in the dual role of executive president of Hastings College.
Speak to Lloyd about his career, however, and you will not hear him rhapsodizing about the length of his curriculum vitae or how many presidential medallions he has hanging in the closet.
Rather, Lloyd talks of relationships and opportunities to serve. He refers repeatedly to the good work of his colleagues and identifies blessings he has found all along the path of his career.
And when it comes to Hastings College, a listener may conclude that for Lloyd, the chance he now has to help his undergraduate alma mater navigate the uncertain terrain in today’s higher-learning landscape is less a professional conquest than a labor of love.
Lloyd, 58, is a Hastings native. He graduated from Hastings College in 1985, then returned as a member of the faculty, teaching English, coaching tennis and eventually serving as academic dean and vice president for college initiatives over a tenure that spanned two decades.
He left in 2012 to become president of the College of St. Joseph, a Catholic liberal-arts institution in Rutland, Vermont. In 2016, however, a contact from an executive search firm lured him back to Nebraska for the intriguing challenge of leading a school dedicated to educating tomorrow’s health care professionals.
In November 2019, Lloyd and his family said goodbye to his father, Darrel, a legendary Hastings College faculty member of 36 years, following his death at age 85. Darrel Lloyd, who like his son taught English, is remembered by many Hastings College graduates as a life-changing influence.
Then, within a few short months, Lloyd found himself with the opportunity to once more extend the family’s legacy of service to an institution that has been so much a part of his own life.
Bryan College of Health Sciences was in conversation with Hastings College concerning a possible partnership for health care education in central Nebraska. Lloyd was an able facilitator for that dialogue, given his extensive contacts in Hastings.
“I sort of know both sides of the house,” he said with a smile.
Meanwhile, Hastings College was looking for a new leader following the departure of former President Travis Feezell in March 2020. And with Hastings College and Bryan College already talking about building relationships between themselves, they decided Lloyd might be the man for a unique moment, capable of steering two ships with shared projects and interests.
Roger Doerr, chair of the Hastings College Board of Trustees, said Lloyd already was at the very top of his list of potential candidates for the college presidency. In late March, he had sent out a letter to faculty and staff, major donors, trustees and others seeking nominations for the position — and the response was overwhelming.
“I think out of 24 letters of nomination, 19 were for Rich Lloyd,” Doerr said. “And it wasn’t an organized effort.”
Under the arrangement that eventually was negotiated, Doerr said, Hastings College is leasing Lloyd’s time from Bryan College and reimbursing Bryan for part of his compensation. The initial trial period was four months, but Hastings College already has secured an extension through the end of 2022.
The arrangement calls for Lloyd to spend half of his time physically present at each college and use technology to fill in the gaps. Exactly how his time is divided varies from week to week, depending on current events.
It’s an unorthodox pact, perhaps — even in a time when many small colleges and universities are looking for ways to share or pool resources. But for Lloyd, it offered an opportunity to circle back to the place where his father was loved and revered; where his wife, Monica, worked for 17 years at the campus bookstore; where both their grown children, Meggan and Zach, earned their bachelor’s degrees.
“Just my familiarity with the school and the family history with the school played a big part in my desire to want to be of service if I could,” he said.
He’s grateful the boards of both colleges were willing to give the arrangement a try — and he is relying on his leadership teams on both campuses to let him know what’s not working so any problems can be addressed.
His title is president at Bryan College and executive president at Hastings College. While the term executive president is new for Hastings, Lloyd said, it doesn’t signify any change in the administrative structure at the college, and is simply to prevent confusion arising from him carrying the exact same title at two institutions simultaneously.
Lloyd reports to the Hastings College Board of Trustees just as his predecessors did, and the vice presidents report to him. He said he depends heavily on colleagues in both Lincoln and Hastings to oversee day-to-day operations, giving him more time for strategic planning.
He tries to arrange meetings on each campus in blocks to cut down on his road miles. He and Monica have residences in both Lincoln and Hastings, and Monica frequently travels with him between the two cities.
Because of technology, he can lead or participate in meetings for both colleges from either of his offices. And with a wireless attachment for his cellphone, even the 80-minute commute between Hastings and Lincoln can be put to good use.
Technology is great, he said — but it’s no substitute for in-person interaction.
“I welcome the day we can have all these meetings in person and I can walk the campus and say hello,” Lloyd said.
Although he was away from Hastings College for several years, he said, he's been able to get right to work and so far has found “pretty good rhythm” in his divided schedule.
“I still have pretty good institutional history and memory,” he said. “A lot of what a new president would do in the first year, I’ve already done.”
The key now, he said, is to meet the needs of both colleges even with a time-sharing agreement in place.
“The goal is to be 100% president for both institutions. I know the math doesn’t quite work, but that’s really the goal.”
When he was in Vermont and was contacted concerning the Bryan College opening, Lloyd said, he questioned whether his academic background in the humanities could serve the needs of a college that is embedded in a medical center and exists to educate health care professionals.
“I said, ‘You realize I’m an English professor, right?’” Lloyd recalled.
What he found, however, was that Bryan College had no lack of health care expertise and was attracted to Lloyd’s experience in academia and administration.
“They saw my background as a complementary strength,” Lloyd said.
Focused as they are on health care careers, he said, students at Bryan College take liberal arts courses as part of their educational foundation — and as president there, he's been edified to learn firsthand how those who care for patients at the bedside draw on the humanities daily.
Health care workers accompany patients and families from birth to death and everything in between — through times of joy, fear and sorrow.
“It’s actually where all of the theory, all of the conversation, all of the reading of literature on ‘what’s this living and dying about, anyway?’ really is directly applied at bedside care,” Lloyd said.
On Sept. 1, the same day Lloyd took office in Hastings, Hastings College, Bryan College, and Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings publicly announced they were launching a joint feasibility study for a new Bryan nursing education delivery site in Hastings.
The conclusion was positive, and Bryan College now is enrolling students for its Hastings program for 2021-22. The concept is for the students to enroll at Bryan but take courses and be part of campus life at Hastings College, then go to Mary Lanning for their clinical training and earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
Hastings College also remains in a partnership with Creighton University for nursing education. Students in the Creighton program are receiving their clinical training at CHI St. Francis in Grand Island.
Then, in October 2020, Hastings College, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center announced agreements allowing Hastings College students to take certain remote and online upper-division courses the schools offer, even as those students remain full-time and fully engaged members of the Hastings College community.
While such partnerships between colleges and universities might seem at first to water down each institution’s own brand, Lloyd said, it all comes down to putting students’ needs first and being able to meet their educational needs and desires without costly duplication of resources.
These are challenging times for all of higher education, Lloyd said. Particularly in the Midwest and New England, demographic shifts are limiting the number of regional students available for colleges to recruit. Meanwhile, costs continue to skyrocket, and some institutions have passed those increases along to students and their families to the point where they price themselves out of the market.
As many small institutions now try to find a way forward, Doerr said, Hastings College already has initiated key steps to secure a strong future — and has found in Lloyd the right person to carry through on them.
Lloyd said his time away from Hastings has helped him see with new eyes how good his alma mater and his hometown really are.
“What you really do come to appreciate is the quality of the faculty, the quality of the instruction, the quality of the community in which the campus resides,” Lloyd said.
“I feel very blessed now, looking back, to have been a student and graduate of the institution and to have had the opportunity to work here for almost two decades and then to get the chance to come back.”
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