GAMBIER — Kenyon College President S. Georgia Nugent, 62, announced Monday she will step down at the end of the 2012-13 academic year. She will have completed 10 years as Kenyon’s president.
Asked what she felt was her biggest accomplishment during her tenure, Nugent told the News she is proud of the building and rebuilding of facilities on campus. “That’s a legacy that will last 100 years,” she said.
When she became president on July 1, 2003, she and the trustees agreed that 10 years would be an “appropriate” tenure for a college president.
“The board of trustees applauds Georgia’s distinguished tenure as president at Kenyon and her vital and knowledgeable presence on the national stage as a proponent of the liberal arts education and its affordability for all,” said Barry F. Schwartz, board of trustees chairman, in a press release issued by Kenyon. “Her background as a talented first-generation student informed both her knowledge and compassion about this issue, and we are certain that she will continue to be among the influential leaders of those who are committed to the future of higher education.” Schwartz is a Kenyon alumnus and the executive vice chairman and chief administrative officer of MacAndrews & Forbes Holding Inc.
Nugent came to Kenyon from Princeton University, where she was dean of the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Center for Teaching and Learning.
Nugent made the announcement as the academic year begins to allow a smooth transition process. “This will be a significant year at the college, and it seemed the right moment, before the year began, to inform our key academic and administrative leaders of this important decision as we moved forward with future projects,” she said.
Themes of her presidency have included access to education and enhancing Kenyon’s national reputation as during her tenure it became one of the most selective in the Midwest, while at the same time attracting a more diverse and international student body and being committed to providing access to education for talented students from all economic backgrounds.
“What’s especially meaningful to me,” Nugent added, “is being able to provide scholarships. One of the things that we did was to raise the largest amount of money that had ever been raised for financial aid and scholarships. Because I was a 100 percent scholarship kid myself, I guess I would say that really means a lot to me.”
During her tenure, more than $60 million in endowed financial aid — a Kenyon record — was raised during the recently completed “We Are Kenyon” capital campaign. Nugent’s own contribution to the campaign established a scholarship fund for first-generation students.
Nugent has also been an advocate for the value of liberal arts education and plans to assume a broader role in the national discussion about the future of higher education. In recent years, she has chaired the boards of the Council of Independent Colleges and Higher Education Resource Services, as well as serving on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the American Council on Education. She is also a member of the Council of Presidents of the Association of Governing Boards.
“I am passionate about the value of the liberal arts,” Nugent said, “and I believe it is critical that we find more effective ways of articulating that value to the public. In my decade at Kenyon, I am especially proud that we have been able to offer an increasing number of bright students of all backgrounds access to an outstanding liberal arts education. I am looking forward to applying my experience as a college president to the national conversation about this issue.”
Nugent’s legacy includes a strong interest in improving the quality of life for Kenyon employees by initiating the Presidential Advisory and Communications Team and the Kenyon Childcare Program. She has also overseen an unprecedented program of new building construction and renovation.
Plans for a presidential search committee to name Kenyon’s next president by June 30, 2013, will be announced soon, Schwartz said. “The college looks forward to celebrating Georgia’s considerable legacy in the great tradition of Kenyon presidents, and the board of trustees knows that a high bar exists to find a successor who will be her equal.”