After Hank Toutain’s decision to retire this spring after seven years at Kenyon, the College finalized on Wednesday its search committee for a new dean of students, to be chaired by Professor of History Jeff Bowman.
The formation of the search committee confirms the College’s intention to enshrine the dean of students as the second-in-command to Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, whom the College appointed to the newly-created post of vice president for student affairs in January 2015.
To assist with the search, the College has hired the Boston-based recruiting firm Isaacson, Miller, representatives of which will be on campus next Wednesday to confer with search committee members. Bonham said she would schedule a lunch for student leaders to meet with the consultants.
Bonham hopes to bring finalists for the position to campus in May and have a new dean installed by July.
The College will be financing the search from its annual operating contingency fund, which usually contains $500,000 to $1 million, according to Todd Burson, vice president for finance. Bonham said she did not think it would be appropriate to share how much the College was paying for the search.
Toutain said family concerns, including a desire to spend more time visiting his two grown children, contributed to his decision to retire. However, he has no immediate plans to relocate.
“I want to support his decision,” Bonham said of Toutain’s retirement, “but I admit to some trepidation at the prospect of doing my job without him as a partner.”
Bonham said the delineation between her role overseeing large strategic initiatives and budgeting and that of the dean of students, which involves handling individual student matters, works well.
President Sean Decatur said Toutain saw his role as “helping to guide and support students to their own responsible decision-making, as opposed to someone who just brings down the law on students.”
“That I think is exactly my ideal of what a dean of students should be,” Decatur said.
Bowman said “an eagerness to be useful” compelled him to accept Bonham’s offer to chair the 11-person search committee, which includes four students: two chosen by Student Council, one by Greek Council and one by Chris Kennerly, director of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Prior to coming to Kenyon, Toutain spent two decades as dean of students at Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., where, early in his tenure, a tornado tore through campus. “My office was destroyed,” he recalled. “I had a clipboard and a hard hat and a walkie-talkie, and that was my office.”
Trying to get by in the aftermath of the tornado taught Toutain a lesson: “People tend to become more of who they are when they’re put under pressure.”
Toutain cited enhancing the Career Development Office, facilitating the construction of the North Campus Apartments and moving the Health and Counseling Center to a new “state-of-the-art” building as some of his proudest achievements at Kenyon.