John W. Anderson H’02, a longtime member of Kenyon’s admissions staff, died Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. A resident of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he was 66.
John, who grew up in San Luis Obispo, California, earned a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 1971 and a master’s degree in education from the University of New Hampshire. He joined the administration at Earlham College in 1974 as assistant director of supportive services and two years later took a position in the admissions office there, rising to associate director.
John came to Kenyon in 1983 as director of admissions, following his service at Earlham. Upon the retirement of John Kushan H’87 as dean of admissions and financial aid in 1987, John was promoted into that position. He held it during two presidential administrations at the College, those of Philip H. Jordan Jr. H’95 and Robert A. Oden Jr. H’02.
“I remember John as the face of Kenyon in seeking, finding and enrolling talented and promising students, so positive and energetic, an invaluable colleague in the Senior Staff, a faithful friend, an essential contributor to the College’s reputation and stature among the best liberal arts colleges,” said Jordan, president from 1975 to 1995. “John built on John Kushan’s successes with fresh energy and vision.”
Oden, who served as Kenyon’s president from 1995 to 2002, remarked, “John was not only the finest dean of admissions with whom I worked but also one of the finest men. Always sparkling, great sense of humor, terrific smile, the soul of integrity, and sharing my lifelong love of running and biking and the outdoors, John was as fully alive as anyone I've ever known.”
In a letter to the editor of the Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin, Lawrence J. Paolucci ’88 recalled several years ago that “[after being admitted] I met John Anderson on an unscheduled visit to the campus to see a friend and decide whether to accept the offer. He insisted I stay and talk with him. I was astounded by how much he knew about me and how much he seemed to care. That meeting, more than anything else, convinced me that Kenyon was the place for me.”
John’s mentorship of his co-workers in Kenyon’s admissions office produced numerous leaders in the worlds of admissions and college counseling, including Darnell Preaus Heywood ’94, director of college counseling at the Columbus Academy in Columbus, Ohio, and Ellen Turner ’80, who recently rejoined Kenyon’s admissions staff as associate director of admissions after retiring as academic dean of Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts.
“I cannot thank John enough for always believing in me,” Heywood said. “From the moment he admitted me to Kenyon to the time when I returned to work in his office, I always felt supported by him. I decided to enroll at the College because, in his admissions office, I saw people who loved life and loved to laugh.
“John gave me so many opportunities to grow, and I know everyone in the office felt that way. His ethical approach to work and life had a huge impact on me. In situations in my work life, I often think, ‘What Would John Do?’ His values have shaped my days.”
“John Anderson was the consummate admissions professional,” said Turner, who worked with John from 1983 to 1986. “He was warm, thoughtful, and very fair. He had a wicked sense of humor, a hearty laugh, and one of the best smiles I’ve ever known. His strong sense of integrity informed everything he did, both professionally and personally.”
“Those who worked alongside John in the Office of Admissions, as I did, remember him as the best boss they ever had,” said Jonathan Tazewell ’84 P’15, a member of the College’s admissions staff from 1986 to 1989 and now Kenyon’s Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama and Film. “I recall him telling me, a new admissions officer, that his job was to train me to replace him someday. He inspired the students and employees he touched with confidence, humility, good humor and a love of the College.”
Bev Morse, associate dean of admissions and director of research and information management, joined the Kenyon admissions staff in 1987. She remembered, “John lured me from the admissions office at Oberlin College, determined to guide Kenyon into the digital age of admissions. He united and motivated our efforts to enroll classes at the College that would be a joy for the faculty to teach and mentor.
“John’s phenomenal emotional intelligence and ever-present smile allowed him to connect in such a positive manner with students, families, and faculty and staff members,” Morse continued. “The only time I ever saw him nervous was the night the admissions staff gathered at his house for the airing of a 14-minute segment on ABC’s Primetime Live that focused on the Kenyon admissions process, from interviews to committee to the applicants’ receipt of their letters bearing good or bad news.”
John was an active member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and a frequent speaker throughout the country on admissions-related topics during his time at the College. He served as director of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and as a member of the Midwestern Regional Council and the National Committee on Membership of the College Board, the Common Application Steering Committee, and the National Merit Scholarship Selection. He received the Margaret Addis Award for outstanding contributions to NACAC in 2005.
“Without fanfare or pretension, John worked tirelessly to bring the world together, using higher education as a common pursuit,” said Elizabeth R. Forman ’73, a member of the College’s admissions staff from 1993 to 2013. “Once when we were discussing the fact that we were both teenagers in the 1960s, he told me that he thought of admissions work as one of the last and best political acts in America. Always in the vanguard, John quietly and with such humor showed his staff at Kenyon and the greater admissions world the truth of what has now become a common catchphrase but then new to us all: John lived a life that defined the importance of ‘thinking globally and acting locally.’ He would never say this, but he played a crucial role in the College’s development at the turn of the century and a crucial role in how we talk about access to higher education in America.”
In 1999, John won Kenyon’s William A. Long Memorial Award, which recognizes the person who has done the most in the preceding year to define the role of athletics in the life of the College’s students.
“The quality of students in every demographic improved substantially during John’s tenure, including among student-athletes,” recalled legendary Kenyon swimming coach Jim Steen P’01’04 H’14, John’s close friend and colleague. “Teams won conference titles and contended for national championships that had never done so previously, and with student-athletes who ranked among the brightest and best in the country.
“One might presume John was a passionate sports fan, fully committed to improving the athletic landscape on campus, but that’s not an accurate representation,” Steen continued. “He was simply passionate about students and wanted individuals at the College who really wanted to be here; he was a terrific matchmaker. John supported teams with his presence, to be sure, but honestly, if he had his choice, he would much rather be a participant than an observer. Never missing a noon workout — or a convenient bike ride, marathon or triathlon — John Anderson set the standard among Kenyon employees of what a well-balanced and actively engaged member of the community looks like.”
At Commencement in 2002, John received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the College. The citation — presented by his longtime friend Ronald A. Sharp H’03, then the John Crowe Ransom Professor of English — noted that John was “legendary for remembering the names of literally thousands of Kenyon students.” More importantly, it asserted, he also was legendary for his “concern for each of them as individuals” and “constant efforts to improve the education of everyone at the College.”
John left Kenyon in 2002 to become director of college counseling at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. While there, he also served as an academic advisor and as a track and field official. He retired in 2011.
John is survived by his wife, Nancy Berounsky Anderson; a son, Nathan Anderson, and daughter-in-law, Rebecca Levin Anderson; two grandchildren, Eli Anderson and Isabel Anderson, the latter born shortly after John’s death; a brother, Richard Anderson; a sister, Deborah Anderson Westcot; and several nephews and nieces. A former teacher at the Gambier Cooperative Nursery School, Nancy Anderson also held positions in Kenyon’s Office of Alumni and Parent Affairs and Annual Funds and Office of Admissions, and served as an interim coordinator of Faculty Lectureships and Common Hour, as well as a coordinator of several high-level searches.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, Maryland 21741-5014.
By Tom Stamp ’73