Kirkwood’s Dean of Admissions and Student Life, Doug “Buckwheat” Bannon, knows people. And multitudes of people know him.
Born and raised in Belle Plaine, Bannon is the quintessential Iowan: he is friendly, engaging and sincere. Though, he may be best known for his high-energy antics: “I love to give people a hard time,” he admits in his typical good-natured manner. “What better way to connect with people than to have fun with them?”
The connections Doug Bannon makes with people are visible everywhere in his office – his walls are covered in pictures of students and colleagues from his entire career.
“I just love meeting people… I want to get to know who people are and where they came from. I want to get involved in their stories,” he asserts. “I want to be like my many mentors at Kirkwood who were pioneers of this college.”
Readied with a BA in Sociology and Psychology from Northwest Missouri State University and a Master of Education Administration from Truman State University, Bannon began his profession as a career development counselor at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, IA, working with students who had been expelled from school. From there, he came to Kirkwood Community College and served as the first Jones County coordinator. In this role, he worked with adult students going through life changes. “As with the unsettled students at Indian Hills, I was just compelled to help in any way I could.”
Bannon had a brief interlude working as Director of Admissions at Sauk Valley Community College in Illinois before returning to Kirkwood in August 1991. “I started working here because of the so-called ‘Kirkwood Way’,” he says. “Everyone here had a reputation of being excited to do something great for our students and the community, and they worked hard to make it happen… Kirkwood will always be Kirkwood. It’s important that we all continue to offer that can-do attitude to each other and our students.”
Dean Bannon lives what he asserts: from warmly greeting nervous students and their relatives at Kirkwood Family Day to impromptu face-to-face visits with them, Bannon employs his smile and charm to make everyone feel right at home at Kirkwood. Annually, he and his team lead more 25 organized on-campus (TGIF) visits for high school juniors, seniors and their parents, numerous individual appointments, and groups from high schools every year. They meet potential students while visiting high schools in the states of Iowa, Illinois and the rest of the Midwest, establishing relationships with guidance counselors and their students, championing the education offered at the Kirkwood and taking the time to learn about individuals.
“I’ve always been proud to work in education, and most importantly, at Kirkwood,” he said, reflecting on his storied and distinguished career. “Education changes lives for the better. It just does. What better occupation is there than changing lives?”