Release: April 25, 2018
GAMBIER, Ohio — Thomas Karako, director of Kenyon College’s Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD), will step down from his position at the end of June 2018.
As CSAD director, Karako has overseen the center’s efforts to stimulate nonpartisan civic and political discourse through conferences, seminars, lectures and other events, both in Gambier and in Washington, D.C. The center’s biennial academic conferences have addressed topics of significant debate in modern American democracy, from economic inequality to free speech and civil discourse. A 2016 conference examining surveillance and privacy featured then-FBI Director James B. Comey, whose keynote speech came amid a high-profile dispute between the FBI and Apple over government attempts to access information from the iPhone of a slain terrorist.
"Tom has shown a remarkable ability to plan timely conferences and to bring in some of the most sought-after voices on critical issues facing our democracy," Kenyon College President Sean Decatur said. "Through his work, the Kenyon community has had the opportunity to learn from notable academics and journalists about what it takes to maintain a functioning democracy, a topic of increasing importance in our current political climate. I have greatly valued Tom's leadership of CSAD, and his dedication to the center has positioned Kenyon well to continue its success."
Karako was noted among his colleagues at Kenyon for his efforts to boost research and internship opportunities for students. Under his leadership, the College developed the CSAD Democracy Scholars Program, in which select students received a stipend to work closely with a faculty member on a fundamental question, text or theme of American liberal democracy.
Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann remarked on Karako’s work: “I came to Kenyon as director of the predecessor to CSAD, the Public Affairs Conference Center [PACC]. Gradually I came to the conclusion that directing something like the PACC or CSAD was a hopeless proposition. Whoever wanted to stay in Gambier would likely lack the necessary big-world connections and would want to become part of the permanent faculty (as I was fortunate enough to do), while a director based in Washington would be felt, however unfairly, to be neglecting Gambier. Tom Karako proved me wrong. I found his conferences to be exemplary, on a par with the fabled Robert Goldwin conferences of half a century ago. The speakers he brought were invariably highly instructive. And the opportunities he provided for Kenyon students in Washington, especially in meeting Kenyon alumni, were invaluable. I will sorely miss his leadership of CSAD.”
CSAD was established through a National Endowment for the Humanities grant in 2007. Karako joined CSAD in 2009 and became director in 2011. Karako also served as an assistant professor in Kenyon’s Department of Political Science, teaching courses on the presidency, national security law, international law, democracy promotion, and American foreign policy, as well as Quest for Justice and Liberal Democracy in America.
Professor of Political Science David Rowe will serve as interim director of CSAD after Karako’s departure, and Assistant Professor of Political Science Nancy Powers will continue as assistant director.
“Tom brought us many programs that addressed critical and timely issues before the nation and the world,” Provost Joseph L. Klesner said. “Moving forward, we plan to build on the momentum he has generated to enliven robust conversations about public affairs and the philosophical roots of a strong and participative democracy within the Kenyon curriculum.”
“Over the course of nine years, I’ve acquired some dear friends at Kenyon, so moving on is certainly bittersweet,” Karako said. “I’m very proud of the work of the center, and hope it will continue to foster politically diverse and timely programming about the important issues of the day.”
Since 2014, Karako has been affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He has become a recognized national voice on national security issues, speaking and publishing widely on missile defense, proliferation and nuclear deterrence.
Karako will continue to support the work of CSAD by assisting with Washington programming and by advising Kenyon students seeking internships in the nation’s capital. He also will remain an affiliated scholar with Kenyon College. “I may be in Washington, but part of my heart remains in Gambier,” he added.
“Tom brought a wide array of thoughtful voices to Kenyon, including conservative ones, which has become increasingly rare on college campuses these days,” Professor of Political Science Tim Spiekerman said. “His conferences, on topics ranging from inequality to surveillance to free speech, were outstanding, and I always looked forward to them. Of course, the main beneficiaries of Tom’s commitment to intellectual diversity and rigor were the students. He will be a tough act to follow.”