Section: Uncategorized

S. Georgia on my mind: catching up with the Nuge

S. Georgia on my mind: catching up with the Nuge

by Nathaniel Shahan


S. Georgia Nugent, former president of the College, may have left Kenyon, but she has not left the liberal arts.

Nugent remembers Kenyon fondly, but she lives in the moment:“I’ve never looked back in my life. Whatever I’m doing, I like it.” She does, however, have a Kenyon Google alert and checks in from time to time. Though she has not closely followed President Sean Decatur’s tenure thus far, she has reviewed the 2020 and Master Plans. She likes the ideas that the 2020 Plan lays out, but doesn’t find it unique. “What campus is there, in all of America, that isn’t saying, ‘We need greater globalization, we need more diversity?’” she said. Nugent briefly came back to Gambier this week to moderate a discussion in Columbus between Decatur and the presidents of Ohio Wesleyan University and Denison University. The topic of discussion was “The Relevance of Liberal Arts in a High Tech World.” 

While president of Kenyon, Nugent also served in various other positions including chair of the board at the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in Washington, D.C., where she now works as a senior fellow. The CIC’s mission, according to its website, is to “advance independent higher education and its leadership,” specifically liberal arts education. She oversees a CIC public relations campaign designed to combat media “disinformation” about the liberal arts. The CIC also runs a Twitter account (@SmartColleges), which “troll[s] the Twitterverse” and supports tweets with positive messages about the liberal arts. “We’re just trying to get out good information [about the liberal arts],” Nugent said.

Working for the CIC, Nugent travels to D.C. every two weeks or so, though she is currently building a house in Princeton, near the university where she was an undergraduate, professor and administrator. She and her husband live in New York City, where she is neighbors with reality television personality Tim Gunn. He is “the world’s sweetest person,” according to Nugent. Gunn, who worked for many years in academia at Parsons School of Design, will actually be speaking at an upcoming CIC event.

Nugent, though she spends much of her time in the States, has also been promoting the liberal arts overseas. For the past two years, she has been serving on the board of trustees for the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. MaryAnn Baenninger, the current President of Drew University in New Jersey, asked Nugent to join the university’s board. Nugent traces her interest in this position back to her time at Kenyon, where she worked with other members of the Great Lakes Colleges Association to start a program called the Global Liberal Arts Alliance, which is dedicated to “build[ing] relationships with American-style colleges around the world,” Nugent said, referring to schools with liberal arts structures. While many American universities lean toward promoting a more pre-professional education, more liberal arts, “American-style” colleges are opening around the world, according to Nugent. 

Even when working overseas, Nugent still works to improve the liberal arts in the U.S. She is a member of the executive committee (and former chair of the board) of Higher Education Resource Services, better known as “HERS.” The organization is launching a project called the “HERS 100,” which will identify 100 women who would be strong candidates for university and college presidencies. “There are about 23 or 25 percent [of female university presidents in the U.S.], and it’s remained constant for more than 20 years,” Nugent said. Nugent, a member of Princeton’s first co-ed undergraduate class, served as Kenyon’s first female president.

Nugent’s impact on Kenyon can be seen everyday. Under her 10-year tenure, Kenyon  made additions from the construction of the Kenyon Athletic Center in 2006 to the restoration of Peirce Hall, as well as a successful capital campaign and the classification of Kenyon as a “Hidden Ivy” by Newsweek. Though “the Nuge,” as she was affectionately known, may no longer be employed by Kenyon, her legacy lives on.

1 Comment

Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at