Former MCC President Passes Away

Jeff Armstrong

It is with great sadness we share with you that former Muscatine Community College (MCC) President Dr. Jeff Armstrong died January 11 at his home.

Dr. Armstrong served in various positions at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, officially retiring in 2014. During his 33 years with the college he also served as Community Education Specialist, Dean of Instruction (MCC), Executive Director of Resource Development & Innovation, Vice Chancellor of Facilities/President MCC (2009-2011), and then finally Vice Chancellor of Instruction in 2011-2014.

Dr. Armstrong had too much energy to actually retire. He worked for seven years (2012-2018) in Afghanistan, first as Senior Manager for Associate Degrees and as Senior Manager for Academic Leadership and most recently as Senior International Advisor to the Ministry for Higher Education, all as part of USAID cooperative agreements. (Dr. Armstrong was granted a two-year leave of absence from EICC to work in Afghanistan.)

He also served as Provost of Northeast Iowa Community College, 2014-2015, before returning to Afghanistan. He has been involved in numerous international activities supporting the development of community colleges, workforce development and market-oriented institutions of higher education, with projects in India, South Africa, Namibia, Guyana, Thailand, Ukraine, Jordan and Georgia.  Dr. Armstrong traveled to India 22 times since 1995. Most recently, Dr. Armstrong spent 2019 in Erbil, Iraq working for the British Council as an International Advisor on a variety of projects.

Dr. Armstrong earned the EICC Chancellor’s Award, the Phi Theta Kappa Distinguished Administrator Award, the Muscatine High School Hall of Honor Award as well as being awarded an honorary doctorate by Ivan-Franko Pedagogical University (Drohobych, Ukraine).

To know Dr. Armstrong was to know the man who met the Dali Lama and Mother Teresa in India, spent time among the Buddhist ruins in Cambodia, traveled the Middle East through the Fulbright Foundation, saw the holy land through the eyes of a Palestinian friend, worked to dispel apartheid in education in South Africa, worked with the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan, and helped set up learning institutes in areas of the world most yearning for the promises that only an educated population can produce.

He is survived by his wife, Andrea, daughters, Madigan (Andy Bassman), Robin (John Welt), and Hannah (Brett Pfantz), and his grandchildren, Isadora and Oscar as well as his mother, Loretto, and brothers Pete and Chris, and his loving nieces, Sarah and Tess.  A private celebration of his life will be held at a later date. 

Memorials can be made in Dr. Armstrong’s name to the MCC scholarship fund in care of the Muscatine Community College Foundation, 152 Colorado Street, Muscatine, Iowa 52761.

There are likely many stories about Jeff that will help celebrate his rich life. Please feel free to post stories and memories below.

Author: alaneastern

2 thoughts on “Former MCC President Passes Away

  1. Jeff was dean of the college who hired me back in 2002. He was an early mentor, and I appreciated his matter of fact/direct communication style. A man of few words (at least when he spoke to me), but because of the conciseness of his communications, I can still remember some of his remarks. My emails, for example, can get a little long winded… I remember one time he simply replied something to the effect of ‘that was too long for me to read’… lol.. many have probably thought that when they receive one of my rambling communications, but only he (so far), just bluntly called me out on it. Maybe he needed more of a filter, but he came off as more honest by simply saying what he thought, and saved lots of time that way, so he could maximize his productivity and contributions. I still giggle when I push the send button on an email, that I know he probably wouldn’t have read to the end… and he had a good point… to get the point, so as not to lessen the effectiveness of the effort.

    One time during a start-up meeting with faculty and staff, I remember him saying as president.. “I can do whatever I want”… I knew what he meant, with that particular position, you are free to initiate, direct and lead.. not specifically being told what you have to do… but the way he said it made me giggle, as it seemed more of something you would think to yourself, but not necessarily say out load in front of colleagues.

    I was surprised when he moved on from the position of president after such a short time, but I can see know that he had accomplished everything he had to offer at MCC, and that his passions were focused on international ambitions.

    I realized soon after taking the position in the video department at MCC, the reason we had a bond of sorts, was that he had also been a video tech as one of his very first jobs here at MCC. I know he was close with Mr. Dean Sessler, the video production manager prior to my hiring… the two of them made some great educational videos for our community. He obviously worked his way up the ranks to the very top (and beyond) of his career potential from there.

    His interest and passion for global outreach was evident, as during his leadership, MCC had a very robust international studies program. I miss the energy and positive attitudes of those visiting students each year. I am still Facebook friends with one of them…

    Thank you Dr. Armstrong for bringing me aboard the MCC family.. in this case literally.. the WORLD will miss you…

    Chad Bishop

  2. Jeff Armstrong, was a friend and a colleague. He was a very intelligent and gifted man! I was privileged to work with him on a number of initiatives within the EICC, and with two International projects in India, and Drohobych Ukraine. Jeff had a deep passion for advancing higher learning in some of the most challenging countries of the world. Jeff was truly an adventurer, and a globe trotter. He will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace!

    George W. Varchola

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