By David Hoyt
On Monday, the College announced Vice President for College Relations Sarah Kahrl will soon become the full-time leader of the Kenyon Institute, a summer program she was instrumental in creating.
“This is Kenyon College showing its real commitment to this idea,” Kahrl said. “I expect the Institute to continue to grow and, I hope, take up even more of my time and imagination. ﾅ The idea of developing Kenyon’s summer has been something that has interested me for a long time.”
For this academic year, Kahrl will continue in her current role, while concurrently planning the Institute for next summer. When she becomes director of the Kenyon Institute, she will also take on the title of senior advancement advisor. “That role ﾅ will be really to assist my successor in getting to know the Kenyon community, making plans for a future campaign, [and] advising [about] staffing [for] him or her,” she said. “That will be a one-year appointment, and could be extended.”
Kahrl says the Kenyon Institute’s website will go live with the Summer 2014 course offerings on Nov. 1. “In the coming summer, you’re going to see some familiar programs, the programs that were the most successful,” she said. “The Kenyon Playwrights conference will be back, the Kenyon Institute in Biomedical and Scientific Writing will be back, our summer seminar is going to grow in size, our teaching program will be back.
“[The Institute] is a rapidly growing enterprise that really needs a lot of focus. ﾅ We are already working on new programs ﾗ we’re hopeful we will have at least one new one to announce in 2014 and even more in the future,” Kahrl said. “We also are very focused on the summer seminar as a really important way for Kenyon alumni and parents to connect with the College.”
For the past 10 years, Kahrl has been in her current job, which, among other roles, involves overseeing alumni relations, fundraising and public affairs. She is most closely associated with the We Are Kenyon campaign, a fundraising drive that raised $240 million for Kenyon at its close in 2011, beating its target by $10 million. This included $61 million for new facilities, nearly $60 million for financial aid and $84 million for the College’s endowment.
Although the original goal for financial aid donations was $70 million, Kahrl points out that We Are Kenyon “increased the endowed assets for financial aid that have been raised throughout the entire history of Kenyon College by 150 percent in one campaign, so I certainly would regard that as a success,” she said. “When a college sets its initial goal … you’re making your best estimate of what potential might exist for different campaign priorities. $60 million was a remarkable achievement for the College, especially during a time when, in the midst of a campaign, we went through one of the worst economic crises that this country has ever experienced.”
Compared to its peer institutions, Kenyon’s endowment ﾗ now approaching $200 million ﾗ has traditionally been considered small, but Kahrl believes the amount raised by the campaign appears artificially low due to donors’ consideration of Kenyon in their estate planning. “If we had done every single thing, if it all worked like clockwork, we probably would have raised another $20 million [for the endowment],” Kahrl said. “However, one of the inevitable things that happens in a campaign is that donors have given money or pledged money in their estates that is not assigned, and that’s a pretty substantial amount of money, almost $30 million, where it will really be up to the College to assign that money when that donor passes on. So the potential for us to reach the endowment goal is very good.
“I do think that Kenyon alumni have a deep awareness of the endowment as a continuing issue for the College, and I would predict that in future campaigns it will have an even higher prominence,” she said.
While Kahrl says she will be focused on the future of the Kenyon Institute and not the search for her successor, she believes “Kenyon is in an ideal position to bring in a great new, young leader of development.” While it’s impossible to predict the future of the College’s fundraising, Kahrl envisions a positive outlook. “I think that the job of a vice president is always to imagine past, present and future,” she said. “People have a life relationship with the College and it’s our job to tend to that relationship at every phase of their development. ﾅ I would regard that as being central to the role of the VP is being able to see the potential in all of our donors.”
Although big names like Graham Gund ’63 and trustee David Horvitz ’74 are the most well-known Kenyon donors, Kahrl believes in casting a wide net. “Given the relative youth of Kenyon’s donor population and the size of our donor base, it’s very important [to have the] participation and involvement of all of our donors, from the minute they leave Kenyon as undergrads and can give their first $10 to the Kenyon Fund.”
Kahrl is also hopeful the next Graham Gund will eventually emerge. “I think history has always shown, at Kenyon and at other places, there are always people who step forward. … It’s a combination of that individual having the means [and] the desire to make a gift of that size.”
Having completed her main development campaign, Kahrl is excited to move into a new role. “Oh, I think the time is just right for this,” she said. “I’m delighted that the Board and President Decatur have been responsive to the idea that [the Institute] is an enterprise that could mean a great deal for Kenyon in the future. So, all the stars aligned; it just seemed right for everybody.”
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