By David McCabe
Heidi Hansen McCrory, who directs alumni relations and fundraising at Virginia’s Sweet Briar College, will replace Vice President for College Relations Sarah Kahrl in July.
McCrory will lead a division with a broad portfolio. The 45-person staff in College Relations manages alumni affairs, public relations and fundraising for Kenyon.
“Kenyon is riding a bit of a wave with new leadership, strong admissions and strong finances, and there is a great opportunity to further strengthen it from a philanthropic, engagement and visibility standpoint,” McCrory said in a statement.
“Heidi stood out because she clearly brings experience in leading a staff, [and] brings experience in working on a campaign,” President Sean Decatur said. “But she also, to me, showed a remarkable ability to talk passionately on a conceptual level about what’s important about an institution, as well as talking very effectively and efficiently about what goes on on the ground.”
Money raised is likely the metric on which McCrory’s tenure will be judged. She will oversee the College’s next capital campaign, making her a crucial partner to Decatur in his efforts to craft and bring to fruition his vision for Kenyon’s future.
McCrory will have a successful model to emulate. Though her name was largely unknown to students, Kahrl was a vital part of the campus changes that defined the tenure of former President S. Georgia Nugent. Under Kahrl’s leadership, the College deployed a capital campaign called “We Are Kenyon” that funded both tangible and intangible shifts under Nugent.
The $240 million raised by the campaign helped fund Nugent’s most visible movement under her leadership — the building boom. It paid for the Gund Gallery, the Horvitz Studio Art Building, the North Campus Apartments and the renovation of Peirce Hall. Less visible were the $60 million the drive raised for financial aid and the six endowed chairs it established.
“When we completed the $240 million ‘We are Kenyon’ campaign in 2011, College Relations began looking ahead to a future campaign and ensuring that the College was well-positioned to begin it, a task particularly important with the arrival of a new president,” Kahrl said in an email.
Though “We Are Kenyon” ended just a few years ago, Decatur said he believes enough time will have elapsed between its close and the start of the next campaign that donors will not feel worn down by constant appeals from the College.
“Certainly something that I’ve discovered as I’ve been on the road and meeting with alums is that there is still a lot of enthusiasm about Kenyon,” he said. “I’ve actually had the question of folks on the road, ‘So when’s the next campaign?’”
A capital campaign McCrory led at Sweet Briar raised $111 million, according to Kenyon representatives; she had been at the all-female institution since 2000. In the 14 years since, she has progressed through a variety of fundraising roles. Her current position is similar to the one she will take on at Kenyon, albeit at a smaller institution: Sweet Briar has only 760 students. Still, Decatur said McCrory’s experience should make for an easy transition to Kenyon.
“I think the things that [Sweet Briar] has in common [with Kenyon] are the commitment to residential liberal education,” Decatur said. “I think it has very much in common a passionate alumni body who is very committed and engaged with the institution.”
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