Community college in Liberal mourns loss of president

Coroner rules death a suicide

? A day after the president of Seward County Community College was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot, his colleagues and students struggled to deal with the loss.

“He was always a very positive person,” said Andy Yoxall, spokeswoman for the college. “We never deal with problems around here. To him, they were always challenges — something we would deal with.”

James Grote was found dead Tuesday in the back yard of his home by his wife, Linda, who had come home early from her job as an administrator with the Liberal school district, police said.

The coroner ruled Grote died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, said Capt. Al Sill of the Liberal Police Department. Grote used a 12-gauge shotgun, and left no suicide note.

Grote, 58, was the type of person who would head out of his office and walk the halls when staff and students were coming in for their first classes so he could say hello to everyone, Yoxall said.

“He was one of those presidents who made a concerted effort to learn students’ names so as he walked down the hall he could call them by name,” she said.

Grote had been president of Seward Community College since 1994. The college has about 2,000 students.

He worked at community colleges most of his life, including a stint as president of Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, Mich., in 1987. He also was dean of instruction at Colby Community College in Kansas.

“One of his biggest beliefs was that the community college was very important to many communities across the United States, and especially Kansas,” Yoxall said.

Grote was named the 2001 Southwest Daily Times Citizen of the Year.

A funeral Mass will be conducted at 11 a.m. Friday in the college gym. It is open to the public.

The campus will be closed Friday and all classes have been canceled, although regularly scheduled events will continue.

Grote’s daughter, Stephanie, is a senior at Liberal High School. His son, Curtis, is a junior at Emporia State University.