Davenport Campus

Dr. Kern’s 50 years at The Fountainhead

Dr. Kern has always enjoyed staying connected with students. He’s seen here in a 2010 photo with members of the Campus Guides.
Campus Guides and Dr. Kern on stairs

When Donald P. Kern, D.C., Davenport ’58, joined the Clinic faculty at Palmer College in 1960, Dr. B.J. Palmer was still president of the College. Then in 1961, B.J. passed away, and his son, Dr. David Palmer, became president. Little did Dr. Kern know then that he would one day take the place of his mentor, Dr. Dave, at the helm of Palmer.

In June 2010, Dr. Kern celebrated 50 years of continuous service to the College, not only as faculty clinician and later, president, but through nearly every role in between. He has been clinic director, Technique Department faculty member, director of Admissions, chairman of the Technique Department, dean of Continuing Education, assistant to the president, vice president for Student Affairs and executive vice president.

Dr. Kern was named interim president of Palmer College in 1987 before becoming president in 1988—but he’s never stopped teaching. After serving six years as president, he stepped down to return to full-time teaching in the Technique Department in 1994. Then in 2001, Dr. Kern was asked to serve as senior campus administrator at the new Florida Campus. He returned to the Davenport Campus in 2004 as interim president before becoming president in 2005 for an unprecedented second time.

A third-generation member of a fivegeneration chiropractic family, Dr. Kern says that teaching students is one of the main reasons he still enjoys coming to work in the morning. He also gets great satisfaction from “helping Palmer stay number one” and “the great people here—students, staff and faculty.” The president’s regard for the people he works with is mutual. Florida Campus President Peter Martin, D.C., Davenport ’68, who has also served as president of the West Campus, says, “Don has always exemplified to me the very best qualities of a teacher: kindness and compassion. Don is both the consummate chiropractor and the consummate college president. It has been, and continues to be, my privilege to know him and to work with him.”

Jennaleigh McKinley, D.C., Davenport ’10, who once served as president of the Student Council, sees Dr. Kern as a role model. “He is always willing to lend a helping hand and truly wants to see each and every student at Palmer succeed, and have a great time doing it!” she says.

Reflecting on his time at Palmer, Dr. Kern believes his legacy will have to do with financial stability, and the College’s identity—namely helping to craft the Palmer Tenets, starting the President’s Club and strengthening the College endowment. “Our endowment has grown from about $6 million in 1987 to around $30 million today,” he says. “The one thing that will guarantee the perpetuity of this institution is a strong endowment fund.”

“On behalf of the College, we recognize and thank Dr. Kern for his five decades of work,” says Dr. Dennis Marchiori. “On a personal level, I admire Don for his student focus, strength, stability and patience.”

Of the many lessons Dr. Kern has learned over the years, he believes the most important one is that “it takes a team to be a successful college. You can’t do it yourself,” he says. “I think I’ve been able to show people that we’re all in this together, and to encourage them to strive together to make it work.”

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