Kent Chabotar Announces Plans to Retire as President

Posted: March 15, 2013

Kent Chabotar, who has guided Guilford College to financial stability since becoming the institution’s first non-Quaker president in 2002, will step down June 30, 2014.

During the past 11 years, the College has balanced budgets, increased enrollment, improved facilities and grounds, and developed two strategic plans.

“The Bible says that to every thing there is a season,” Kent said in today’s announcement to the campus. “This is the season and time for me to do something else after twelve years in a job I have loved doing almost every day and in almost every way.”

The Board of Trustees will appoint a committee by its June meeting to conduct a national search for Kent’s successor. After stepping down as president, Kent, who is a professor of political science and has taught a course at the College almost every year of his presidency, plans to take a yearlong sabbatical and then teach at Guilford.

He arrived at the College at a time of multi-million dollar budget deficits, shrinking endowment and significant deferred maintenance. “When the floundering ship neared the rocks, he guided us to calmer waters,” said Dana Professor of English Carolyn Beard Whitlow, who was clerk of the faculty in 2002.

During his tenure the College has changed dramatically:

  • Enrollment increased 36 percent from 1,801 in 2002 to 2,462 in 2012.
  • Guilford invested $32 million in campus improvements, while reducing its overall debt. Founders Hall, Duke Hall and Archdale Hall underwent major renovations; the South Apartments were built; and athletic facilities were improved.
  • The Advancing Excellence capital campaign, which runs through June 30, 2014, has raised $52.2 million toward its $60 million goal. In his initial months at Guilford, Kent also finished the previous Our Time in History campaign that raised $56.4 million.
  • Guilford’s endowment grew by $21.3 million, from $41.6 million in September 2002 to $62.9 million at the end of December 2012, an increase of more than 50 percent.
  • The College adopted two strategic plans: Creative Leadership for the 21st Century 2005-2010 that focused on the academic program, diversity, spirituality and Quaker heritage, and stewardship; and Outcomes of a Guilford Education 2011-2016 that centers on educational outcomes, international education, assessment and marketing.
  • In 2007, the College’s accreditation was reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) with no recommendations for improvement. The College’s interim five-year report in 2012 also received no recommendations for improvement, a highly unusual double achievement.
  • Although already having an unusually diverse student body, faculty and staff for a liberal arts college, Guilford adopted its Diversity Plan in 2009.
  • The College completed an evaluation and prioritization of academic programs in January 2011. A comparable assessment of administrative programs and services began in fall 2011.
  • The number of intercollegiate athletic teams rose from 12 to 20.
  • Kent pioneered very transparent and participatory decision-making that featured faculty-led budget committees, open office hours for administrators, and routine publication of college facts and trends. To enhance financial literacy, he taught “Finance 101” for staff and students that used management cases to analyze financial health including at Guilford College.
  • Sustainability has been enhanced by energy-saving “green” construction and programs, installation of solar panels to supply 9,000 gallons of hot water daily, and the establishment of the Guilford Farm, among many other initiatives.

“Kent has been an excellent president for Guilford College – the finest we’ve had in my 40 years on the Board of Trustees,” said Joseph M. Bryan Jr. '60, chair of the board. “He will be greatly missed as president, and his shoes will be hard to fill. I’m delighted he is planning on teaching at Guilford after a year’s sabbatical.”

Kent has contributed to Guilford through his financial generosity as well as his leadership: He has given more to the College than any other active faculty member or administrator.

In addition to being vice president and treasurer at Bowdoin 1991-2002, he served as senior lecturer in the college’s Department of Government and Legal Studies. When he left Bowdoin his former students funded the Kent John Chabotar Scholarship Fund, the Board of Trustees elected him to emeritus status, and the Alumni Council made him an honorary alumnus.

Earlier in his career Kent was a faculty member at Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts and Michigan State University. He received the Fussa Distinguished Teaching Award at Harvard and the Distinguished Educator Award at Michigan State.

Kent has served on the faculties of summer executive programs sponsored by the Harvard Institutes on Higher Education since 1983, including the Seminar for New Presidents. He has also taught the Seminar for New Board Members for the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges for over a decade. The Council of Independent Colleges gave Kent its Academic Leadership Award in 2003.

A nationally-recognized expert on higher education administration, Kent is the author of the book Strategic Finance (2006). He has been especially active during the global economic crisis with numerous publications, workshops, and speeches about how colleges and universities can maintain strategic vision and financial equilibrium. He serves on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities.

“Kent Chabotar has been a beacon of light in helping college presidents, deans and other campus leaders understand the finances of the fragile organizations that colleges truly are,” said Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges.

“He has made it possible for state and federal policy officials to grasp the complexities of higher education. And as vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Council of Independent Colleges and a frequent speaker at CIC’s national conferences, he has suggested new ways for all of us to think about the prudent investments in higher education that our society should be making.”

Kent earned a political science magna cum laude from Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania, and an M.P.A. with distinction and a Ph.D. in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

“Between now and 2014, we have goals to accomplish, students to educate, a capital campaign to complete, a strategic plan to implement, budgets to prepare, administrative services to deliver, and a ninth president to recruit,” Kent said in today’s announcement.

“After that, I intend at present to take a sabbatical year away and then return as a professor of political science. I will end my career as I began it over 40 years ago: in a college classroom teaching students to think critically and creatively about the great issues of public policy and administration.”

Last Updated: January 17, 2014