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Kornfeld to be inaugurated April 13, celebrations planned

Kornfeld to be inaugurated April 13, celebrations planned

COURTESY OF KENYON COLLEGE COMMUNICATIONS

President Julie Kornfeld will be formally installed as Kenyon’s 20th president on April 13 following a weeklong series of events celebrating both Kornfeld’s inauguration and the College’s bicentennial.

Kornfeld took office on October 1, 2023, 10 months after former president Sean Decatur announced his departure for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The installation ceremony and inaugural celebrations will mark the beginning of Kornfeld’s tenure at Kenyon, formally introduce her to the broader Kenyon community and give students the opportunity to participate in a momentous event in Kenyon’s history.

“This is a chance for everybody to meet President Kornfeld to celebrate her taking office,” Professor of Political Science Joseph Klesner, chair of the inauguration committee, said in an interview with the Collegian. “It’s also just a great opportunity for her to meet lots of different kinds of people, including people from the larger community — faculty, students, staff, everybody.”

Many of Kornfeld’s predecessors, including former presidents Decatur, S. Georgia Nugent and Robert Oden, Jr., took office in July and were inaugurated in October, making Kornfeld’s April inauguration unusual. Inaugurations are typically scheduled to coincide with the Board of Trustees’ meeting on campus, according to Klesner. A presidential inauguration is a rare and significant event: Kenyon has averaged one president every 10 years across its 200-year history.

The installation ceremony — the week’s main event — will be held at the Lowry Center at 11 a.m. on April 13, and will include traditions such as the passing of the ceremonial mace and presidential medallion, according to a Tuesday news bulletin. Wafaa El Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and founder and director of ICAP at Columbia University, will deliver the keynote address. Representatives of various College constituencies will give welcome addresses, and Nugent and delegates from other colleges and universities will be present at the ceremony. 

Kenyon community members will also have the opportunity to participate in several other celebratory events, including the historic illumination of Old Kenyon Residence Hall on April 12 and an all-campus dance party in Peirce Dining Hall from 8 p.m. to midnight after the installation ceremony.

The illumination of Old Kenyon has been a tradition since the inauguration of Charles Pettit McIlvaine, Kenyon’s second president, in 1833. While it originally took the form of candles in the windows of Old Kenyon, today the College uses modern technology to put a fire-safe spin on the original tradition. The bell in the dormitory’s steeple will ring 20 times, another rare Kenyon ritual.

“We are excited to marry tradition and technology,” Director of Campus Events Howard Grier wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We have contracted with a company that will use ‘projection mapping’ to bring sight, sound and motion to the event. The evening will kick off at 9:30 p.m. with performances by several campus a cappella groups, followed directly by the illumination.”

Saturday’s all-campus dance party will feature the ’80s cover band The Attraxion, a DJ, a 360 photo booth, free refreshments and a bar for attendees who are over 21 years of age. “Everyone should come dressed to celebrate in style,” Grier said. “’80s style or not… both are fine.”

Kenyon will also host several other events in the week leading up to the installation ceremony, including this weekend’s staged reading of Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People,” a book launch for Place and Purpose: Kenyon at 200, a Day of Service with volunteer opportunities in Gambier, a lecture on the history of Kenyon’s presidents with retired College historian and Keeper of Kenyoniana Tom Stamp ’73, a Bicentennial Porch Party, a Q&A session with Nugent and many more.

“Kornfeld feels very strongly that the inauguration celebration should be for the whole campus,” Grier said.

The inauguration events will also function as a celebration of Bicentennial Spirit Week, which was “conceived as a way to convey and amplify the excitement of inauguration week on campus to [Kenyon’s] alumni,” Director of Annual Giving Molly Gutridge wrote in an email to the Collegian. Gutridge highlighted Kenyon’s annual giving challenge, which aims to “inspire 1,824 people to make a gift next week.”

A complete schedule of over 30 events can be found on Kenyon’s website

Klesner is excited for students to have the chance to participate in a part of Kenyon history. “Any time you change a president of an organization, you’re typically going in somewhat of a new direction,” he said. “This is a great time to recognize that, to celebrate the fact that you’re doing something new, and it’s going to be very meaningful for the institution.”

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