Spring 2023 Report from the Board of Trustees

The Kenyon College Board of Trustees convened for its spring meeting April 19–21 in Gambier.


Chaired by Brackett B. Denniston ’69, the Kenyon College Board of Trustees convened in Gambier for its spring 2023 meeting on April 19–21. The meeting coincided with Honors Day, an annual celebration of the outstanding achievements of Kenyon students, faculty, alumni and other community members. 

This year, the Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards went to Assistant Professor of Psychology Leah Dickens and Associate Professor of Chemistry Kerry Rouhier. Three remarkable alumni — all pioneers in their fields — were conferred honorary degrees: poet David Bergman ’72, clinical psychologist Julie Ann Cerel ’94 and muralist Marela Zacarías ’00. Student Council President Ubongabasi Asuquo ’23 won both the Doris B. Crozier Award and the E. Malcolm Anderson Cup, a rare double honor, for her vision and her many contributions to the life of the College.

The board’s three strategic standing committees met Thursday afternoon:

  • The Student Experience Committee discussed the cases before the Supreme Court challenging race-conscious admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, and the impact the court’s decisions could have on higher education more broadly. The committee heard from members of Kenyon’s affirmative action working group, which has been studying the issue in preparation for the court’s ruling. The committee also heard from two faculty members, Professor of Spanish Katherine Hedeen and Associate Professor of Sociology Celso Villegas, who discussed how their work in the classroom helps equip students to productively engage with difficult issues like those involved in the Supreme Court case. Finally, there was an update on progress in the Academic and Student Affairs divisions related to the strategic plan.

  • The Kenyon in the World Committee discussed the unprecedented growth that central Ohio is experiencing due to the influx of tech, biotech and other industries. Regional planners and leaders from Columbus and Knox County joined the committee to discuss the implications for housing, transportation and other infrastructure, and how businesses and cultural institutions in the region are responding to the opportunities and impact. The committee recommended that a working group be formed to study the impact on faculty and staff housing. 

  • The Campus and Finance Committee heard an update on current operations and discussed the status of capital projects. A working group has been appointed to review the preliminary findings of the carbon-neutrality plan and consider next steps. The committee also heard an update on the recent refinancing of bonds issued in 2013, which will yield $3.7 million of net present value savings.

In other committee business, the Investment Committee heard an update from CornerStone Partners on the performance of the College’s investments, and the Audit Committee reviewed the Form 990 informational tax returns for the College and its related organizations.

On Thursday evening, trustees hosted a dinner for the winners of the Trustee Teaching Excellence Award, honorary degree recipients and several retiring faculty. The evening ended with a concert by Männerchor, one of Kenyon’s signature a cappella groups, and a performance by the Ballroom Dance Club.

Trustees enjoyed other time in conversation with students and recent graduates. On Friday, the Student Experience Committee met with members of Student Council, and over lunch trustees heard from Kefa Memeh ’22 and Giulia Cancro ’22, whose prints hang in Lowell House as part of a program by the Enrollment Division to collect and showcase student art.  

A plenary session on Friday morning focused on freedom of expression on college campuses. The board was joined by Yascha Mounk, professor of the practice of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University, along with Nico Perrino and Elizabeth Stanley ’21 of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. “If Kenyon is to live up to our mission — that is, to build foundations for lives of purpose and consequence — we have to create environments where students and faculty can exchange ideas, explore difficult topics, and find and strengthen their voices,” said Acting President Jeff Bowman in introducing the session.

In his report to the board, Bowman reported on the enrollment to date of the next incoming class, which so far is on target with projections; the healthy recruitment, retention and promotion of Kenyon faculty (see below); and an overview of campus building projects, including the West Quad, Bexley Hall, the South Quad, preparations of Cromwell Cottage for the next president, and an assessment of the longer-term use of Cromwell given the changing use of space around the building.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved the following tenure-track appointments: Aashna Aggarwal, psychology; Holden Diethorn, economics; Emily Ibrahim, anthropology; Christopher Levesque, law and society and sociology; Zachary McGee, political science; Jessica Pruett, women’s and gender studies; Alyssa Quinn, English; Kamesh Regmi, biology; and Lauren Schmitt, environmental studies.

  • Approved the promotion to associate professor of, and the award of tenure to: Leah Dickens, psychology; Austin Johnson, sociology; Iris Levin, biology and environmental studies; David Maldonado Rívera, religious studies; Keija Parssinen, English; and Kai Xie, Japanese.

  • Approved the promotion to full professor of: Abbie Erler, political science; Brian Jones, mathematics; Irene López, psychology; Paula Millin-Lipnos, psychology; and Jon Sherman, film.

  • Approved the slate of honorary degree candidates to be awarded to retiring faculty at Commencement 2023: Laurie Finke, women’s and gender studies; Kathy Krynski, economics; David Lynn, English, editor emeritus of the Kenyon Review; David Suggs, anthropology; and Jan Thomas, sociology, executive director of the Office of Community Partnerships.

  • Approved the Class of 2023 candidates for graduation.

  • Approved the annual engagement of auditors.

  • Approved the appointment of Maraleen Shields ’00 to a four-year term as an alumni trustee; Mark Israel P’26 to a four-year term as a parent trustee; Antoinette Keck ’90 to a six-year term as a trustee-at large; and the renewal of Rose Fealy ’84 and Matthew Voorhees ’95 to six-year terms as trustees-at-large. 

  • Adopted resolutions of appreciation for outgoing members of the Board of Trustees: Rachel Berger ’11, Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Joe Lipscomb ’87, Sonya Pryor-Jones ’94 and Beth Shuman P’22.

  • Elected Paul Goldberger P’04, Deborah Salzberg P’09 and Barrett Toan ’69 as emeritus trustees.

Prepared by the Office of Communications
April 26, 2023