SNC President Kunkel Leads MWC Through Transitions

From St. Norbert College, January 26, 2012
by Mike Counter, mike.counter@snc.edu, (920) 403-3089

St. Norbert College President Tom Kunkel has only been part of the Midwest Conference (MWC) since the 2008-2009 academic year, but in that time he has made a lasting impact on the operations and look of the conference. His facilitation in conference expansion and reform over his tenure has shaped the look of the current structure and serves as a testament to his strong leadership ability among member institutions.

Kunkel was selected by his MWC peers as the first Chair of the Midwest Conference Presidents Council, established in December 2010, and became the first Chair of the Board of Directors for the reorganized Midwest Conference, Inc.

As a result of his role as the Chair of Midwest Conference, Inc., Kunkel spearheaded the conference in the incorporation process throughout the past year. He tirelessly worked with MWC Commissioner Chris Graham in negotiations with Ripon College, the institution which houses the conference office, as well as through legal counsel to reformat the conference's by-laws and procedures in becoming its own entity.

"Tom's steady and patient guidance through our detailed incorporation process and membership considerations has been invaluable to the conference and myself in particular," Graham said. "The conference is in a far better position moving forward thanks to his ongoing work and contributions."

Kunkel was also instrumental in leading the conference through expansion that brought charter member Cornell College back to the MWC after it had left the conference in 1997 to join the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC). He spearheaded the membership discussions for the league, which will have 11 members in July 2012, and that has not gone unnoticed by his peers.

"In a time of major transition for the Conference, both in its membership and in its governance structure. Tom has effectively led the discussion of the criteria for MWC membership," Illinois College President Axel Steuer said. "He worked closely with Commissioner Graham and attorneys to successfully incorporate the conference, and encouraged his presidential peers to assume more active roles in making the key decisions that affect the conference."

According to Kunkel, the addition of Cornell not only adds another exceptional academic institution but also brings with it strong athletic programs to compete with the other 10 MWC members.

"With the addition of Cornell College, I think the long-term future of the conference has never been more positive or assured," Kunkel said. "Cornell is an outstanding academic institution, and we look forward to its athletic teams enhancing what is already a highly competitive conference."

Kunkel took over as President of St. Norbert College in July of 2008 after he served for eight years as Dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, one of the nation's top journalism programs. During his career he has also written or edited five books, including "Genius in Disguise," the critically praised biography of New Yorker editor Harold Ross which has fueled his success at St. Norbert.

In a difficult economic climate Kunkel has been able to keep St. Norbert moving forward, including athletics, as the Green Knights debuted the new $10.5M Donald J. Schneider Stadium in 2010, which serves as the practice and competition venue for football, soccer and track and field.

"Tom's leadership and vision for St. Norbert College has resulted in a record-setting level in enrollment, giving and building," St. Norbert Athletics Director Tim Bald said. "In this economic time when many collegiate campuses are stagnant, St. Norbert has been in a continuous state of growth. This is a direct result of his leadership. "

His interest in athletics is also something that sets Kunkel apart among college presidents according to Bald.
"It is refreshing to have a president who understands the importance that athletics brings to the life of a campus and backs the coaches and student-athletes by not only being aware of their accomplishments but someone who attends many athletic events as well," Bald said.

It's likely it is this interest that has lead Kunkel to position the MWC in a more favorable position in Division III according to Steuer.

"His collegial and thoughtful manner and his strong commitment to the continuing success of the Midwest Conference have ensured that the conference survived is stronger than ever," Steuer said. "His colleagues on the Presidents Council very much appreciate his hard and collaborative work that has positioned the conference well to play a leading role in NCAA Division III athletics."

Also a member of the Board of Directors of the Green Bay Packers, Kunkel is in the second year of his two-year term which expires at the end of the academic year.