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About Barbara Q. Decker, JD:

Dr. Barbara Q. Decker

Barbara Quijano Decker, J.D., was appointed the second president of Mercy College of Health Sciences in August 2006. During Decker’s 12-year tenure as president, Mercy College made significant contributions in advancing the College to meet the dynamic needs of the healthcare community.

As one of seven children and the daughter of first-generation Americans, Decker’s parents always embraced the importance of education for their children. Her father’s formal education concluded in eighth grade. At 91 years old, her mother graduated with her high school diploma.

“My mom was from Italy and my dad was from Mexico. They were both hard working. They made sure resources were available to send all their children to college. And they persevered – no matter what challenges or barriers were set before them,” Decker said.

Under Decker’s leadership, Mercy College expanded facilities, broadened and diversified academic programming, strengthened the ministry as a Catholic college and created a culture of academic success. Her passion and persistence led to Mercy College’s favorable accreditation and performance outcomes as well as the organization’s strong positive relationships with students, employees, alumni, clinical partners and the College Board of Directors.

Decker earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and sociology from Drake University. She went on to earn her Juris Doctorate and Master of Public Administration degrees and completed her law degree while working full time as Drake’s human resources director, where her son was an undergraduate student. She was admitted to the Iowa State Bar upon her graduation from Drake Law School in July 2000. She has received scholastic honors as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Alpha Alpha. 

Leading by example, Decker honored Mercy College by establishing three separate endowment funds: the Frank and Mary Quijano Endowed Scholarship Fund, in honor of her parents’ commitment to education, a President’s Endowed Innovation Fund to support student immersion trips and new college endeavors, and an endowment fund to honor the charisms and legacy of the Sisters of Mercy.

“Barbara’s compassionate leadership has advanced the mission of Mercy College within our community tenfold,” said Mercy College board chair Glenn Lyons. 

Decker received numerous honors and recognition from her community involvement, impacting countless lives. She was honored with the 2007 Distinguished Master of Public Administration Alumnus Award from Drake’s College of Business and Public Administration and received the Robert D. Ray Ambassador Award from the Iowa Commission on Latino Affairs in 2006. Dr. Decker was the 1998 recipient of the Award for Excellence in Human Resources by the Central Iowa Society of Human Resource Management.

Perhaps the greatest honor, however, was conveyed upon her in November 2017 when Pope Francis awarded Decker with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal, which means “For the Church and the Pontiff, the Pope.” 

Decker continues to serve on a number of community boards and professional organizations. Mary E. Campos, a close family friend and a distinguished advocate on behalf of the Hispanic community, remarked at Decker’s invocation in 2006, “To describe the Quijano family and Barbara, their gifts of faith, family, and friends along with their persistence and hard work, discipline and responsibility are evident.”

Barbara Quijano Decker retired from her role as president of Mercy College in June of 2018, but her legacy and leadership will be remembered long after. 

Decker is looking forward to spending time with her family in retirement, but she won’t be slowing down completely. “I will be sitting on several boards and will be engaged with the diocese and my own parish,” Decker said.

In addition, she will be spending quality time with her husband Larry, who retired at the end of 2017, her son Casey and daughter-in-law Karen and with their two grandchildren, Grace (12) and Lily (10).

“I will miss the people,” Decker reflected. “I have especially enjoyed the fast-paced environment, new ideas, programs, challenges and educating others.”