Leaving Home Is Never Easy

While the next chapter of my professional life offers enormous opportunity, I will always remember with profound gratitude my Kenyon home and my own Kenyon education.


Dear Kenyon students and colleagues,

I wanted to personally let you know that I will be stepping down from the presidency of Kenyon College at the conclusion of my sabbatical to serve as president of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, beginning in April 2023. It has been a tremendous honor for me to lead this remarkable community over the past 9.5 years — to learn, to teach and to grow alongside you — and to aspire together to what I know is a very bright future for Kenyon.

Jeff Bowman will continue as acting president, providing wise and steady leadership while the College moves forward with a search for its 20th president. You will hear from the Board of Trustees soon about that process and about the opportunities to engage in it.

Curiosity, learning and growth have always been at the heart of the Kenyon experience, and at the heart of what brought me to Gambier almost a decade ago. In my first address to the Kenyon community, I compared the process of education in the liberal arts tradition to the way a protein chain folds into a three-dimensional structure: not by a simple pre-programmed path, not by the exertion of pressure from outside forces, but by a dynamic and complex set of interactions between the protein molecule and its environment. And, indeed, that is what I discovered here at Kenyon: a powerful learning environment created by the lively interplay of students, faculty and staff, where the interactions we have with each other drive all of us to change and evolve into our better selves.

Together on this hill, we have shared moments of pure delight (a certain all-campus game of capture the flag comes to mind); moments of deep sorrow (both personal and collective); and moments of triumph and celebration (athletic victories, Fulbright and Goldwater fellowships, the never-old feeling of accomplishment in reaching the last day of classes). These shared moments build the emotional bonds and connections that sustain us, not only in our time in Gambier but as we move forward to new and different chapters of our lives.

On a more personal note, campus has been a home for me, Renee and our family: a place where our younger son grew up, where my mother spent precious late-life years, where our dogs found endless entertainment barking at passers-by, where friendly faces on Middle Path or at the Post Office or in the Bookstore or around Peirce never failed to lift my spirits even on gloomy February days. 

Leaving home is never easy, and I cannot deny that this change is marked by some sadness. While the next chapter of my professional life — leading another extraordinary institution committed to curiosity, learning and growth — offers enormous opportunity, challenge and adventure for the years to come, I will always remember with profound gratitude my Kenyon home and my own Kenyon education.  

Sean Decatur