Section: News

Barbara Kakiris leaves Kenyon for Cleveland State position

After seven years of service at Kenyon, Associate Director of Campus Events and Summer Conferences Barbara Kakiris ’97 is leaving the College. Kakiris is set to become the Deputy Chief of Staff/Senior Director of Presidential Initiatives at Cleveland State University (CSU). Her last day is Feb. 28, and as the date approaches, Kakiris is working to prepare the College for her absence.

“I gave a month’s notice so we could have a good transition,” Kakiris said. “I’m in charge of summer programs, and this is when we gear up, contract [and] book. I want all that done before I leave so that the College will be in a strong spot.”

In her position at Kenyon, Kakiris organized the many events that take place at the College over the summer, such as weddings, conferences, scholarly programs and athletic competitions. Kenyon hosts more than 80 events each summer, and often has hundreds of people on campus at once. It was Kakiris’ job to coordinate food, housing and event space for all these people. The College has not yet found a replacement for her, so Kakiris is trying to get much of the planning for this summer done before her departure.

Kakiris’ new job will bear more similarity to what she has done in the past: Before coming to Kenyon, she spent 20 years as a communications and event director at NASA, where she took charge of larger projects involving community outreach. At CSU, Kakiris will work closely with the university’s president in planning special projects and realizing his vision for the school.

Though she loves Kenyon, Kakiris is excited about the opportunity presented by her new position. “It is so well-aligned with my skills and talents,” she said. “I love big projects and helping people envision the best that their organization can be. It’s still an academic institution, and so I’ll be involved in education and people who are looking to better their lives.”

Kakiris’ absence will be felt on campus by staff and students alike. Avery Morgan ’20, who worked under Kakiris for two summers as a conference service specialist, says she enjoyed working for her.

“She’s a very personable person,” Morgan said. “When she’s dealing with clients she really gets to know them as people, and as workers she’s really invested in what we’re doing—not just during the summer, but what’s going on in our lives during the school year. She’s an amazing boss, [and] an amazing person.”

Cynthia Cunningham, who served with Kakiris on the New Directions board, also spoke highly of her qualities as a person. “She is passionate, caring, vocal and intelligent,” Cunningham wrote in an email to the Collegian. “She has been a forceful component of the Knox County community, having a hand in moving several organizations forward over the years, including [domestic abuse shelter] New Directions. The void her absence will make will not go unnoticed.”

Although Kakiris is leaving Kenyon, she’s confident that she won’t be gone for good. Prior to her position at the College, Kakiris was an active alumna, serving as the Cleveland regional alumni chair and chairing all but one of her class’s reunions since her graduation. She expects this level of involvement to continue while she works at CSU. In addition, she is still a member of Gambier’s Village Council, a position to which she was elected in December 2019. Though Kakiris will spend most of her time in Cleveland, she still owns a house in Gambier, and plans to return for the Council’s monthly meetings.

As Kakiris prepares to leave, she reflects on her seven years at Kenyon.

“When I made the move here, I doubted myself,” Kakiris said. “Coming from the city to this area was a big decision. I’ve made great friends and I will miss them dearly. But I think I will miss the students the most. You guys are just very endearing to me, to see the types of people that choose Kenyon nearly 25 years after I came here. But as I said, those connections aren’t going to be lost.”

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