Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A college president leaves vision, achievements

Here's one job I wouldn't want — following Norval Kneten as president of Barton College. Whatever you do is not likely to compare to Kneten's transformation of Barton in 11 short years.

Kneten announced his retirement, effective a year from now, yesterday. He came here with strong credentials but nothing to predict his impact upon Barton. He came with a vision and a determination to lift Barton in many ways — academically, aesthetically, financially and competitively. He hit the ground running, making key contacts throughout the community, building relationships with public and business officials, faculty and alumni. He made sure Barton was woven into the fabric of the community, that its financial, academic, intellectual and artistic influence on Wilson was recognized and expanded. He built partnerships with the city, and he raised money. Being a college president these days means being a fundraiser, and he has been extraordinary in that regard.

Under his guidance, Barton has improved its physical presence with a new theater, athletic facilities, signature bell tower and a dormitory, all aimed at making the college more visible and distinctive. His latest project, a new landscaped entry into the campus, is nearing completion.

Under his guidance, Barton has raised academic standards and focused on making students prepared for and successful in life. Barton's marketing varies from letters and electronic communications with alumni and donors to billboards on I-40 and full-page ads in magazines. Community involvement in the library, art gallery, athletics and symphony has brought the public into Barton's fold.

Norval and his wife, Susan, have used the president's residence, the Barton-Graves House, into a social, marketing and development dynamo, hosting events for donors, friends of the college and influential neighbors. The Knetens have made their lives integral to the college's fortunes.

When I met Norval 11 years ago, I was quite impressed with him and excited about his energy and his vision for the college, but I never imagined just how far his vision would take the college in so short a time. Barton cannot clone him and will have difficulty finding someone to match his vision and vigor, but, with Norval's imprint in place, it will try. 

No comments: