Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, senior associate dean of students for strategic initiatives and Title IX coordinator at Hamilton College, joins Kenyon as vice president for student affairs on July 1, 2015.
President Sean Decatur announced the selection of Bonham after a national search. Bonham has served Hamilton in a number of roles across divisions since 1993. Hamilton is a highly selective, residential liberal arts college in Clinton, N.Y., with an enrollment of 1,850.
“Meredith has a strong record of leadership within a distinguished liberal arts college, proven experience in moving difficult initiatives forward and a keen sensitivity to the student experience,” Decatur said. “I’m very pleased.”
Bonham arrived at Hamilton in 1993 as assistant dean of admission. She moved to the Office of Communications and Development in 1998 as associate director for annual giving and, in 1999, joined the Office of the President, where she served as executive assistant to the president and secretary to the board of trustees. She became chief of staff in 2009. Bonham took on student affairs responsibilities in her current role in 2011.
“I have loved Kenyon from the moment I first visited campus as a prospective student,” Bonham said. “I am exceptionally honored to be now returning to my alma mater in a role that is a perfect blend of opportunities and challenges. Kenyon is moving forward on an exciting trajectory under President Decatur’s leadership. It is inspiring to know I will be part of the College’s future.”
Hamilton President Joan Hinde Stewart lauded the performance of her former chief of staff. “Kenyon has made a brilliant appointment,” Stewart said. “For her integrity and intelligence and for the compassion and humanity she brings to her work, Meredith will be deeply missed at Hamilton. We wish her every success at her alma mater.”
Bonham’s work as Title IX coordinator, chair of the Hamilton Emergency Response Team and chair of a first-year experience committee will be invaluable, said Barry F. Schwartz ’70, chairman of the Kenyon College Board of Trustees. “Given her record of accomplishment, Meredith is well-suited to take on this vital role at Kenyon, and as an alumna she fully appreciates the unique value of the Kenyon student experience,” Schwartz said. “We expect her to build on the strong foundation in Student Affairs established by Dean of Students Hank Toutain. They will make a formidable team.”
Bonham fills the role of vice president for student affairs with oversight and planning responsibilities for the Division of Student Affairs. Toutain retains his title as dean with a focus on specific student and family issues, conflict resolution and problem solving. Toutain has served as dean since 2009.
The search committee was chaired by Professor of Sociology Marla Kohlman and included faculty, staff and students. AGB Search, a higher-education leadership recruiting firm based in Washington, D.C., helped conduct the search.
“Meredith brings a wealth of practical experience to the Student Affairs division,” Kohlman said. “She has much to offer Kenyon in terms of expertise and understanding of Title IX and her extensive work with the first-year experience curriculum at Hamilton,” she said. “Of most significance, however, was the fact that Meredith came across to the committee as an attentive and considerate listener who understands how to work with multiple constituencies to achieve a common goal.”
Bonham reflected on the enduring qualities that defined her Kenyon education. “I developed an intellectual voice, honed my writing skills, formed lasting friendships and expanded my world view,” she said. Bonham earned a master’s in education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in 1998. She is a doctoral candidate in higher education at the Syracuse University School of Education.
Bonham said that her experience at Hamilton gives her a broad understanding of the complex operations of a small college and an appreciation of the importance of student affairs in fostering a liberal arts experience. “Hard work, persistence and resilience” are qualities that define success in student affairs, she added.
Bonham has dealt extensively with federal mandates aimed at gender equity and equal protection. Her work has included collaboration with administrative colleagues, faculty and student groups to develop programs on sexual-misconduct prevention and response. “Having a clearly articulated and accessible policy encourages reporting and provides the foundation for effective and fair resolution of complaints while responding to individuals with compassion and sensitivity,” Bonham said.
Bonham and her husband, Jay Bonham, associate dean of admission at Hamilton and a 1993 Hamilton alumnus, are the parents of sons Charlie, 14, and Teddy, 9. “We are really looking forward to immersing ourselves in our new community,” she said.