Future 50: John Comerford, Otterbein University

Katy Smith
2020 Future 50 class member John Comerford.

Future 50 Class of 2020

John Comerford

President, Otterbein University

About: John Comerford joined Otterbein as president in 2018. He served as president of Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, from 2013 to 2018 and previously held high-level administrative roles with Westminster College in Missouri, University of Kansas and Missouri Western State University. Comerford holds strong values around social justice and equality, access and affordability and diversity and inclusion. In his first year at Otterbein, he helped established a scholarship that covers full tuition for Ohio students from families of financial need. Otterbein also enrolled a record 160-plus students of color in the new class last fall. To build the student pipeline and workforce of the future, the university is partnering with a dozen local companies, Columbus State Community College and Columbus City Schools.

Outside work: Board member for Simon Kenton Council of Boy Scouts, Westerville Rotary Club and Westerville Chamber of Commerce. The father of three also spends time driving his children around to their many activities—Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, soccer, tumbling, baseball and church activities. The native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Kansas.

50 ideas to move the region forward. Here's who else is in the Future 50 Class of 2020.

What does Columbus need to thrive? “K-12 schools can connect to colleges and trade schools to ensure more students go on to get the education they will need for success in this economy. Colleges and universities can ensure affordability and connect with employers, ensuring we are creating the workforce they need. Corporations can invest back in the education system, not just out of charity, but out of a need to break down barriers in workforce development.”

Comerford’s idea: “The Columbus Way is all about collaboration and partnership. Yet, it seems at times that our growth is making this more difficult. Meaningful opportunities could be missed because it is simply more difficult to interact with an increasing number of groups, businesses and leaders. What if we invented a way to collaborate based on a more intentional, inclusive and scalable system? This could take many forms—perhaps a matching service where groups can share their services and needs. Perhaps a speed dating format or an online discussion and sharing system.”

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