Jenny Varner new community college president

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Davidson-Davie Community College Board of Trustees has selected Jenny Varner as the next president of the college.

The board’s decision was affirmed by the State Board of Community Colleges at its November meeting. Varner will serve as the fifth president in the school’s 60-year history, succeeding Dr. Darrin Hartness, who served as president since 2019 and died in July of this year.

Varner, who has served as acting president since the death of Hartness, has been at the college since 2008 and was previously vice president for external affairs and executive director of the college’s foundation. In these roles, she led the Davidson-Davie Foundation through its years of greatest growth, celebrated the college’s history and milestones including the 50th Anniversary year in 2013, and oversaw the renaming of the college from Davidson County Community College to Davidson-Davie in 2021.

She served under two presidents, Hartness since 2019 and Dr. Mary E. Rittling from 2008-2018, and was engaged in all aspects of campus decision-making as a member of the senior leadership team.

“Jenny Varner brings a unique set of qualifications that will carry the college into the future,” said Dr. William P. Steed, chair of the Davidson-Davie Board of Trustees. “She has been a steadfast advocate for the school for the past 15 years, and has already been instrumental in helping guide the college through growth and change. She is deeply rooted in not only the fabric of the school but of our communities, and we look forward to furthering the mission of Davidson-Davie under her leadership.”

Varner graduated from Duke University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public policy. Prior to coming to Davidson-Davie, she worked for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and for NASPA, the student affairs professional organization.

As a college senior, she co-founded and later ran a nonprofit focused on student leadership.

Varner is a Davidson County native and actively engaged in the local community, serving on the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce Board for six years and the Family Services of Davidson County Board for eight years, as well as various other leadership and fundraising roles.

“Finding the right person to lead the college is an important task, and these candidates all had outstanding credentials and career experiences,” said Kevin Firquin, chair of the trustees’ presidential search committee. “The committee carefully evaluated the qualifications of each candidate and reflected on the longstanding commitment Jenny Varner has to the college. She’s in tune with the values and needs of the campus, and her goals for the future align not only with the college but with our community as a whole.”

The search for Davidson-Davie’s new president began in late August, led by Firquin as search committee chair, Steed, Donnie Holt, Cathi Smith and Ken White. The committee gathered feedback from faculty, staff and students on characteristics they felt were important in a future college president. The search yielded more than 60 applicants, which the committee then narrowed to three finalists. The finalists participated in on-campus interviews and open forums with faculty and staff before the Davidson-Davie Board of Trustees made its final selection.

“I have been so fortunate to have worked side-by-side with the most dedicated colleagues and board members for the last 15 years as we focused on the education and success of our students and the Davidson and Davie communities,” said Varner. “And now, together, we have a 60-year legacy to uphold as we honor the past, build on our successes, and chart the future of this amazing college.”