In July, 2007, Dr. John Sellars assumed the presidency of Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, and brought to the post a successful resume in teaching, business, community development, fundraising, and academic administration. Before Graceland, Sellars served as president of Drury University in Springfield, MO.
Following service in the Navy in Vietnam, for which he received Navy Unit Commendation and Vietnam Service medals, Sellars completed a BS/BA at Central Missouri State University. He worked for Butler Manufacturing as Plant Controller/CFO at its factory in Story City, Iowa. Pursuing a lifelong interest in religion, Dr. Sellars took fulltime church appointment for the Community of Christ as bishop (financial officer) in Kansas City where he also attended classes at the St. Paul’s School of Theology. In 1986, he completed a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
Sellars then began a two-decade career in academics. He moved to Graceland University, sponsored by the Community of Christ, where he taught business and marketing courses, and later became Vice President for Institutional Advancement. In 1992, he completed a Ph.D. from UMKC. During his first Graceland tenure, Sellars assisted in Graceland’s successful purchase of SkillPath, Inc., a for-profit continuing education corporation that has increased Graceland’s endowment significantly. Sellars has also led institutional advancement teams at Michigan Technological University and Syracuse University. He completed coursework at Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management, the Wharton School in Strategic Planning and Higher Education Marketing, and Harvard University’s New Presidents’ Seminar.
Throughout his long career in institutional advancement, Sellars has been a strong advocate of community economic development. Recognizing that universities depend on healthy and vital communities to attract and retain quality faculty, staff, and students, Sellars has been active in numerous government and non-profit community-building efforts. He has held positions on the Cox Health Systems Board ($1.6 billion budget), the Iowa governor’s Leadership Development Institute, the Michigan Governor’s Economic Development Board, the New York Development Agency (serving 13 counties in upstate New York), and the Southern Missouri Leadership Forum. He has been a volunteer fundraiser for the Boy Scouts of America, the United Way Appeal (section chair), Rotary Clubs, Lions’ Clubs, the American Red Cross, and numerous church efforts. Sellars has also served as a consultant to the University of Missouri, the Thompson Foundation, the India Institutes of Technology, Mankato State University, and several national publications.
Sellars has taken an active role in community development. He has consulted with several potential business owners who are exploring opening new stores or expanding old ones, and he presented the keynote speech at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet. He is also working with community leaders to form a coordinating committee for community development efforts.