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St. Norbert President Announces College Retirement Plans

From St. Norbert College, September 3, 2015
by Mike Counter, mike.counter@snc.edu, 920-403-3089

President Thomas Kunkel has announced that he will leave his post as president of St. Norbert College on May 31, 2017, when he will have served nine years in the position.

For Kunkel and his wife, the decision is driven partly by family considerations and partly by the desire to pursue additional life goals.

"Deb and I have two grandchildren and another on the way in January," said Kunkel. "Then, on the other end of the family spectrum, my parents back in southern Indiana are in their eighties. So we find ourselves seeking more and more family time."

Kunkel, who recently published the critically acclaimed biography "Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker," will continue his writing career after the presidency, and he intends for his first project to be a "short and accessible" biography of the college's namesake and patron, St. Norbert of Xanten.

But before that, Kunkel emphasized, there is a great deal yet to accomplish at the college in his remaining two years.

"This is a great institution and it is a privilege to serve as its seventh president," Kunkel said. "It is great fun, too, as we have been fortunate to advance the institution on many fronts. We still have much to do, and I look forward to using my remaining time here working on what is still a pretty long 'to do' list. This is certainly a time to ramp up and continue to make exciting things happen."

Kunkel said that list includes developing more endowed academic programs, raising additional scholarships for students, building more partnerships with other colleges, universities and K-12 schools, and continuing to advance the Donald J. Schneider School of Business and the college's collaboration with the Medical College of Wisconsin. A major capital priority is a renovation and expansion of the college's Schuldes Indoor Athletics Center.

As for the timing of the announcement, Kunkel noted that his arrangement with the college's Board of Trustees was to give them a two-year notice of his intention to retire, if at all possible, and his announcement is the fulfillment of that promise. Today's college presidential searches, including planning and preparation, can exceed 18 months.

"Tom has and will continue to have a lasting impact on St. Norbert College. We are positioned well for the future," said Jay Williams, chairman of the college's Board of Trustees, who will lead a national search to replace Kunkel during his final year in 2016-17. "Our goal will be to secure a president who can continue to move the college forward, while fully supporting the mission and commitment to our Norbertine heritage, academic excellence and financial stability," he said. "Because the college is in such a strong position, we anticipate that this presidency will be attractive to high-quality candidates."

The Council for Independent Colleges reported in 2011 that the average college president's tenure was seven years, down from 8.5 in 2006. "We are thrilled to have Tom in this role from 2008 to 2017, two years longer than what's happening in the higher education marketplace," added Williams.

In addition to his career in higher education, Kunkel ­-- a former journalist -- is the author or editor of six books. In addition to "Man in Profile," he has written "Genius in Disguise" (1995), a biography of The New Yorker's founding editor, Harold Ross, and "Enormous Prayers: A Journey into the Priesthood" (1998), an ethnographic portrait of 28 Catholic priests. He also edited "Letters from the Editor" (2000), a compilation and analysis of Harold Ross' letters.

During his tenure at St. Norbert College, Kunkel has overseen the construction and renovation of more than $100 million in campus facilities and infrastructure, including the Gehl-Mulva Science Center and its South Teaching Wing; Michels Commons; Schneider Stadium; the Mulva Library; Gries Hall; the Ariens Family Welcome Center; Todd Wehr Hall; Dudley Birder Hall; and the Cassandra Voss Center. The college's enrollments have reached record levels on his watch, as has the academic profile of its student body. And this fall's incoming class is the most ethnically diverse in school history. Beyond that, St. Norbert has climbed steadily in national rankings of liberal arts colleges.

Kunkel is a member of the Green Bay Packers Board of Directors and Associated Bank's regional advisory board. For three years he served as chairman of the President's Council of the Midwest Conference. He is on the boards of the New North and Achieve Brown County, and he is active in numerous other community groups.

Before coming to St. Norbert, Kunkel served for eight years as dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, where he also served as president of the American Journalism Review and as editor and director of the Project on the State of the American Newspaper.

Kunkel spent much of his early career in newspaper management, working for such organizations as the San Jose Mercury News, the Miami Herald, The New York Times and The Cincinnati Post.