- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Columbia College President Scott Dalrymple walked through a metal detector and past armed security guards at the U.S. Army base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After entering a secure area, Dalrymple said he saw something he didn’t expect.

“We were in a secure area of the base getting a tour of the tribunal courtroom area. … Once you get in there, there’s this iguana walking around,” Dalrymple said. “And the soldiers walk around the iguana.”

Dalrymple recently visited the college’s location at the Guantanamo Bay military base. He said he was surprised by the number of iguanas, pointing out that they often stop traffic. Anyone who harms one, he added, is charged a large fine, the Columbia Daily Tribune (http://bit.ly/1N1tCXG ) reported.

The visit to Guantanamo Bay was one of many campus visits the college president made in the past year.

In his January 2014 introduction speech, Dalrymple promised he and his wife, Tina Dalrymple, would visit each of Columbia College’s 36 campuses - a journey that took them to 13 states and 18 military bases, including Guantanamo Bay. The couple spent 82 nights on the road and traveled 23,295 miles from February 2014 through July 2015.

The tour of all Columbia College locations was important to Dalrymple’s first year with the college, he said. He became the college’s 17th president on May 1, 2014.

With the campus tours, Dalrymple said he wanted “to make the folks out there feel like we care about them, to let them know we are paying attention and we value what they do.”

The Dalrymples met with faculty, staff, students and alumni at each campus and military base they visited. Scott Dalrymple said the presidential tour had a second purpose: to help him better understand each location.

“To give me a better sense of the unique challenges and wonderful things about each location - which is very hard to do on paper,” he said.

As he toured the Columbia College network, Dalrymple said he made some minor changes to campus facilities, staffing and marketing strategies.

“It was more subtle” changes, he said. “But with 36 locations, you can make subtle changes on each one and it matters.”

A typical day on the presidential trek included a tour of the campus or military base, meeting and getting feedback from staff, discussing academics and facilities at the specific campus or military base with the campus director and an evening alumni event. The couple also “broke in” on some classes, he said.

The Dalrymples both said the variety in each campus location was interesting. Scott Dalrymple said each location has its own personality, especially when it comes to locations on military bases.

“Coast Guard Island in San Francisco Bay is very different from our location in Salt Lake City, which is very different from Guantanamo Bay,” he said.

The Redstone Arsenal U.S. Army post in Alabama was one Columbia College military base location he said he found especially interesting because missiles have been designed and tested there.

“I was giving an alumni talk, and there were literally actual missiles and rockets in the background,” he said.

The facilities of each campus location were also unique, Tina Dalrymple said.

“The biggest surprise was the variety in venues we have,” she said. “From corporate buildings to being on community college campuses - just a huge variety.”

The Dalrymples agreed that they would like to make it back to each campus, but at a slower rate to see more of each location.

They have been back in Columbia for a couple of weeks since finishing their Columbia College presidential tour, just in time to begin new school year activities.

Welcoming students and meeting parents, Scott Dalrymple said, is one of his favorite times of the year.

“It’s a time of hope and new starts,” he said.

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com

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