New Dean of StudentsGAMBIER, Ohio (May 21, 2009)
Henry P. Toutain, the long-time dean of students at Gustavus Adolphus College and a student-life professional with more than thirty years of experience, will become the next dean of students at Kenyon, President S. Georgia Nugent has announced.
Toutain, sixty, accepted an offer from the College this week and will assume his new duties on July 15. He replaces Tammy Gocial, who is leaving for a post at Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Toutain has served as vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Gustavus Adolphus, in St. Peter, Minnesota, since 1990. Like Kenyon, Gustavus is a private liberal-arts college that prides itself on a strong sense of community along with academic rigor and close faculty-student relationships. At Gustavus, Toutain has led the student-life program, overseeing areas including residential life, student activities, health and counseling, career counseling, multicultural affairs, community service, and the student judicial system -- responsibilities paralleling those he will undertake here.
"Hank Toutain brings a winning combination of experience, intelligence, and temperament to this position," said Nugent. "After years as a successful dean at a peer institution, he has decided to come to Kenyon, I think, because he sees clearly that this is a moment of great momentum and opportunity for the College."
"Kenyon is highly attractive to me in a number of ways," said Toutain, who holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature. "Bright, talented, and engaged students working with a gifted and passionate faculty and staff, within a residential liberal-arts environment, is in my view an extraordinarily rich context for learning. I've been connected with similar institutions for most of my professional life, and the chance to partner with colleagues and students at an institution that is at the top of its class is a singular opportunity."
Toutain, who was chosen in a national search that drew eighty-nine applications, said that he was impressed by the "distinctive depth and breadth of community at Kenyon," embracing alumni and parents together with current students, faculty, and staff. He added that during his campus visit last month, "what stood out most prominently for me . . . were the high degree to which students, faculty, and staff are invested in the Kenyon community, the sense that the planets are aligned well for the College moving forward, and the widespread value placed on excellence across the board."
The search committee, which included five students among its twelve members, was impressed in turn by Toutain's extensive experience and personal qualities. "Dr. Toutain is clearly someone who places the needs and desires of the students at the center of his work, and he is someone who understands the right balance between work and play in a residential college," said Associate Professor of Philosophy Yang Xiao, who chaired the committee. Comments submitted to the search committee's online survey bolstered the committee's view that Toutain was "the top choice of the Kenyon community," Yang said.
Committee member Laura Goehrke '10 said she was optimistic that Toutain would win students' trust, serve as an effective advocate for students, and improve communication between students and the Kenyon administration. "He always wants to have students at the center of the conversation," she said. Goehrke added: "He's a really personable guy with a subtle sense of humor. I think he understands how special this place is and how he can help it grow. It's a great fit for Kenyon."
"He seems like the complete package," said Shrochis Karki '09, recently the Student Council president and another search committee member. "He's a good listener and a thoughtful, considerate person. I think he can build bridges across constituencies. He's the kind of guy who students will rally around once they get to know him. This is very good news for Kenyon."
Prior to becoming the dean at Gustavus in 1990, Toutain served for two years as the dean of students at Fordham University in New York City. From 1983 to 1988, he held student-life positions at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, including associate dean of student life and director of residential life. Earlier, he served as associate director of student housing at the University of Chicago.
In addition to his Ph.D. -- from the University of Chicago -- he holds a certificate in educational management from Harvard University. He received a B.A. in English from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island.
Toutain (pronounced too-TANE) and his wife, Bev, a speech pathologist, have two children: a son, Christopher, who is doing graduate work in communication studies at Penn State University; and a daughter, Elizabeth, who recently completed her first year at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
"Bev and I enjoy reading, skiing, biking, and traveling," said Toutain. "I also like to swim, play the piano, and cook -- none with great expertise, I admit, but enough to relax and enjoy."