Kenyon College announced today that the Board of Trustees has granted President Sean Decatur a semester-long sabbatical leave for this fall. Such a sabbatical has been an element of President Decatur’s contract since his hiring as president nine years ago. During the sabbatical, which runs July 1 through Dec. 31, 2022, Provost Jeff Bowman will serve as acting president and Associate Provost Sheryl Hemkin will serve as acting provost.
“The Board is profoundly grateful to Sean for his inspired and generous leadership,” said Chair of the Board Brackett Denniston ’69. “Kenyon is stronger today than at any other time in its history, and that has everything to do with its extraordinary people. The Board looks forward to working with Jeff and Sheryl to build on this momentum during this sabbatical semester.”
Like for members of the faculty, the primary purpose of a sabbatical leave is to provide time for scholarly and artistic work. At Kenyon, tenure-track faculty members become eligible for their first sabbatical leave when they have completed seven years of continuous service to the College; they may be postponed when circumstances warrant it, as was the case for Decatur during the height of the pandemic. Acceptance of a sabbatical leave carries with it the obligation to return for service at the College.
“Leading Kenyon is intellectually challenging and rewarding, but it leaves little room for scholarly and creative pursuits,” Decatur said. “I have several long-shelved writing projects that I am eager to complete.”
Decatur has been a leading voice for liberal arts education throughout his career, and his writing has appeared online in the Washington Post, New York Times and Chronicle of Higher Education. Decatur was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2017 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019. He serves as chair of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Advisory Committee, which works to foster equitable and inclusive learning environments for all students and nourish the public understanding of science.
”Jeff and Sheryl bring both wisdom and imagination to their administrative work, and their passion for teaching informs everything they do,” Decatur said. “I can’t imagine a better team to lead Kenyon this fall.”
Since joining the Kenyon faculty in 1997, Bowman has held progressive positions of leadership within the faculty and administration. Before his appointment to Kenyon’s chief academic office in 2020, he served as associate provost and chair of the faculty. As provost, Bowman has been unwavering in his commitment to educational excellence and provided critical support to faculty as they met unprecedented challenges over the last two years. He has played a critical role in shaping and realizing the vision for Kenyon’s next century, advancing key elements of the strategic plan such as the program in computing and a network of structures to support students’ success in college and after graduation.
“During the two years I’ve served as provost, my appreciation for our strengths as a community and as a place for people to learn have only deepened,” Bowman said. “I look forward to a chance to work broadly with the entire Kenyon community — students, faculty, staff and alumni — during Sean’s sabbatical. As provost, I’ve also had a chance to see what deep and inspiring work Kenyon’s faculty accomplish during sabbatical leaves. I’m glad Sean will have this opportunity.”
As a distinguished member of Kenyon’s faculty, Hemkin has served as chair of the Department of Chemistry, as co-director of the Neuroscience Program and as co-director of the Biochemistry and Molecular Sciences Program. She was appointed associate provost in 2019 and was instrumental in Kenyon’s recent reaccreditation, advancing inclusive excellence initiatives and developing the new program in computing. In 2020, Hemkin played a key role in readying Kenyon for teaching and learning in COVID-19 conditions, and last summer she chaired the search for Kenyon’s vice president for student affairs.
“I’m grateful for this new opportunity to serve Kenyon,” Hemkin said. “We’ve navigated difficult waters together, and it has illuminated just how committed Kenyon faculty, staff and students are to one another and to the institution. I look forward to working with this amazing community to build an even stronger Kenyon.”