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Tom Kepple, Juniata President, to Speak at Commencement

(Posted April 22, 2013)

Tom Kepple, Juniata's president from 1998 to 2013.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Thomas R. Kepple, whose presidency encompassed a complete makeover of the campus of Juniata College and impressive growth in the college's academic mission, will deliver the commencement address at Juniata's 135th Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, May18 on the Juniata campus.

Kepple, named president in 1998, will finish his 15th year leading Juniata after delivering the commencement address. He also will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the ceremony.

Kepple came to Juniata from the University of the South, where he specialized in overseeing large-scale construction and renovation projects and long-term strategic planning. In the 15 years he led Juniata, the college's central campus has been reimagined, renovated and in some cases rebuilt to consolidate arts, sports and classroom instruction around a central quadrangle. Among the transformative changes:

--Construction of the William J. Von Liebig Center for Science, a science building that consolidates most of the college's biology and chemistry faculty into a building with state-of-the-art labs and designed to foster collaboration among academic departments.

--Construction of the renovated and improved Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts, which included the new postmodern Suzanne von Liebig Theatre and a renovation of Rosenberger Auditorium.

--Renovation of historic LEED-certified Founders Hall, the 1879 building that was Juniata's first campus building. The $8.5 million makeover included a pristine and environmentally friendly renovation of the building's tower and main wing, as well as a modernization of the central core and north wing, including a welcoming entrance facing the quadrangle.

--The closing of 18th Street, which established a central quad and gave students and faculty a picturesque brick-lined central walkway that links almost all of the main buildings on campus.

In addition, the creation of a new multimillion-dollar Raystown Field Station, including Shuster Hall, the LEED-certified main building and two modern, yet rustically designed residence lodges also transformed the College's original field station into a major instructional site for Juniata's environmental science program. The new facility has inspired a "Semester at the Lake" science program.

During the past 15 years Juniata students have won numerous Fulbright Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships, Andrew Mutch Scholarships from the St. Andrews Society of Philadelphia, as well as EPA GRO Scholarships, Hollings-NOAA Scholarships and many others. Juniata's athletic teams also have been successful during Kepple's tenure, earning six of Juniata's seven national championships in the past 15 years.

The completion in 2005 of Juniata's largest capital campaign, the Uncommon Outcomes Campaign, raised more than $103 million, making it the largest capital campaign in Juniata's history. Last year, Kepple also initiated the "Changing Lives to Change the World" endowment initiative, which is focused on raising Juniata's endowment to more than $100 million.

Juniata's academic programs also have been significantly expanded, including reinstating a theatre department and reconfiguring an existing computer science program into a more widely specialized information technology program. Additionally, renovation of the college's former science center into Brumbaugh Academic Center transformed one wing into Dale Hall, a wing designed to generate collaboration and synergy between the business, IT and communication departments. After Kepple's retirement, the two remaining wings of Brumbaugh are scheduled for renovation using Dale Hall as a model.

The college's business department also introduced a major program in entrepreneurial instruction, much of it focused on the Juniata Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Bob and Eileen Sill Business Incubator. The entrepreneurial center became a focus of economic development and business formation for Huntingdon and surrounding communities and the college converted a closed elementary school into a business facility and instruction center.

As Juniata's national profile became more prominent in national rankings, amid growth and stiffer competition -- as well as two major economic crises, including the 2008 recession -- the college's current endowment grew from $62.3 million to $78 million during President Kepple's tenure.

President Kepple also maintained a statewide and national profile as a dynamic leader in higher education. He is the founding chair of the Tuition Plan Consortium, a national non-profit organization organized to develop and market the Private College 529 Plan a prepaid tuition plan for private colleges and universities. He served as the vice chair of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's higher education transition team. Kepple is the founding chair of the new Landmark NCAA Division III athletic conference. Other memberships include: New York Times/Chronicle of Higher Education President's Cabinet; NCAA Division III Presidents Advisory Committee; Brethren Colleges Abroad; Princeton Review (Advisory Board); and he chaired the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. He was awarded the Westminster College Outstanding Alumni Citation in October 2000 and in 2011 was awarded the honorary degree, doctor of humane letters, from Elizabethtown College.

Prior to his presidency, Kepple was vice president for business and community relations at Sewanee: University of the South. He also worked for 13 years at Rhodes College, where he was provost and dean of administrative services. A native of Murrysville, Pa., he earned a bachelor's degree in business and economics from Westminster College, in New Wilmington, Pa. in 1970. He went on to earn a master's degree in business administration and a doctorate in education, both from Syracuse University.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.