Section: News

Mark Kohlman leaves Kenyon to join Peace Corps in Africa

Mark Kohlman leaves Kenyon to join Peace Corps in Africa

After 11 years, Mark Kohlman leaves Kenyon.

As the new semester begins, a variety of structural and staffing changes are taking place on Kenyon’s campus. Of particular importance, Ian Smith will replace Mark Kohlman. As Chief Business Officer of the College, Kohlman has served Kenyon for the last 11 years, dedicating countless hours to bettering the Gambier community. Feb. 21, 2020 will be his last day at Kenyon.

In March, Kohlman will return to the Peace Corps, where he will serve as director of management and operations and oversee projects in Benin, Africa.

This will not be his first time in Benin. After graduating from Purdue University in 1991, Kohlman worked as a volunteer for the Peace Corps in Benin for two years. Because of this, he remarked that returning to Africa is “the best case scenario” for him.

“The chances of that happening, and the cycle of people coming and going, and that being an open position — it couldn’t have been better,” said Kohlman.

Since 2008, Kohlman has overseen a variety of projects at Kenyon: he managed the construction of Gund Gallery, Horvitz Hall and the North Campus Apartments, renovated College properties in Gambier and Mount Vernon such as the Bookstore and the Kenyon Inn, and began the development of the West Quad. Through these projects, Kohlman has demonstrated that construction work should be given the respect it deserves. “Behind the scenes, there is so much that goes into it,” he said.

Although Kohlman will not be present for the completion of the West Quad, he promises to remain updated on the progress. “Whenever I get internet, I’ll watch on the webcam,” he said.

Kohlman’s absence will be felt by all on Kenyon’s campus. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for Mark, but we will miss his steady hand here at Kenyon,”  President Sean Decatur said in a news bulletin sent on Dec. 13. “I have valued his initiative and perspective, and I am grateful for his careful stewardship of one of Kenyon’s greatest assets — our historic campus.”

In addition, Kohlman has worked to improve sustainability on campus, establishing the Office of Green Initiatives and working to install solar panels on buildings across campus. Solar panels are due for installation on Gund Commons in April. “[These panels] will be a 62-kilowatt system, which will put us over the 100-kilowat total campus-wide,” said Kohlman. “This is monumental for us in terms of our effort so far.” Both Decatur and Kohlman are looking forward to the sustainability work that Smith will take on during his time at Kenyon.

“When Mark Kohlman shared his plans to move on from Kenyon, we saw an opportunity to integrate campus planning and environmental sustainability at the senior leadership level,” Decatur said. “Ian [Smith] brings the mix of expertise, experience and leadership needed to make progress on our carbon commitment.”

In his time at Earlham College, Smith helped develop the College’s 2015 master plan. He also managed a $70-million-dollar construction program, which included four LEED certified projects. Finally, as he finishes at Earlham, he is implementing a solar power project that will meet 80 percent of the college’s energy needs.

At Kenyon, Smith will be in charge of campus planning and maintenance, while auxiliary functions that are currently handled by Kohlman will be directed to and managed by Vice President for Finance Todd Burson.

Additionally, after Steve Arnett left in the fall due to personal reasons, the administration had been seeking a new candidate for director of facility operations. Rebecca Lanter, director of operations and maintenance at Northern Kentucky University, will replace Steve Arnett on Feb. 17, 2020.

Kohlman is grateful for the 11 years he has spent at Kenyon. He and his wife, Professor of Sociology Marla Kohlman, first moved to Gambier over 20 years ago. He fondly remembers working as a cashier at the Bookstore in the early years, before moving onto logistical work at Knox County Headstart. From there he became the director of business operations for the Knox County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and eventually received his position at Kenyon in 2008, after receiving a Masters degree in organizational management from Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

“My time at Kenyon has been a tremendous period of growth for me professionally,” said Kohlman. “I have worked with outstanding colleagues at every level and am proud of the things that have been achieved over the past decade. The most fulfilling part of my time here has been the many opportunities I have had to work with students on a multitude of projects.”

As he moves on from his work at Kenyon, Kohlman encourages students to continue to use their voices and get involved in the work that is happening on campus. “Go to the right people for information,” he said. “You’ll see, if you get involved, things will change, and develop, and adapt.”

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