(Posted April 5, 2012)

Thomas R. Kepple Jr., president, Juniata College
Thomas R. Kepple Jr., president, Juniata College

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Thomas R. Kepple, under whose presidency the campus of Juniata College was transformed by an ambitious building plan and the most successful capital campaign in the college's history, plans to retire May 31, 2013, according to Robert McDowell, chair of the Juniata College board of trustees.

Kepple was named president July 1, 1998 and will have finished his 15th year leading Juniata by 2013.

"Over the past decade and a half, the physical look of Juniata and intellectual capital produced by the college has been forever changed for the better and President Kepple has inspired and helped lead that change," says McDowell, who graduated from Juniata in 1967 and became chair of the board in 2011. "He has galvanized the entire campus to fulfill a long-term vision that has brought Juniata from the status of regional gem to a spot among the best in higher education. The Board of Trustees is grateful to Tom and his wife, Pat, for their dedication to Juniata."

McDowell also related that Juniata is in the beginning stages of a presidential search to replace Kepple. To date, the college has formed a search committee that comprises trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students. A professional search consultant, R. Stanton Hales, of Academic-Search Inc., has been hired to oversee the selection of finalists for Juniata's presidency.

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:

"Over the past decade and a half, the physical look of Juniata and intellectual capital produced by the college has been forever changed for the better and President Kepple has inspired and helped lead that change. He has galvanized the entire campus to fulfill a long-term vision that has brought Juniata from the status of regional gem to a spot among the best in higher education."

Robert McDowell, chair, Juniata Board of Trustees

--Construction of the 88,000-square-foot William J. Von Liebig Center for Science, a vibrant 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.

Kepple points to Juniata's student accomplishments as his personal touchstone, including a marked uptick in national and international awards received by Juniata students. 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.

Juniata also embarked on two major initiatives to diversify the college's student body demographically and geographically. First, the college started a Global Engagement Initiative that established a Global Community Living Community, international student clubs, introduction of more international courses into the college's core curriculum, an international language outreach program and helped establish international student exchanges. About 10 percent of Juniata's student body is now international students from more than 35 countries and about 45 percent of Juniata's students study outside the United States.

Secondly, the college's enrollment office made a concentrated effort to expand its recruiting of domestic minorities. Today about 12 percent of the student body represent minority groups. The college also recruited beyond its traditional territories of Pennsylvania and a few surrounding states and now about 40 percent of each incoming class come from beyond Pennsylvania's borders (out of state students come from 37 states).

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.

Many of Juniata's innovative academic programs and improvements to the college's infrastructure have made news on a national scale, which subsequently has helped raise the college's national profile. The College is now rated in the top tier of the U.S. News and World Report Liberal Arts Colleges rankings. In addition, the College has been ranked in the top 100 in the Washington Monthly rankings, the Forbes.com poll and Kiplinger Personal Finance "Best Value" poll. The Princeton Review noted in 2010 that "Juniata College has catapulted from regional to national status in the last decade."

Kepple and James Lakso, Juniata provost, also oversaw a faculty turnover of nearly 60 percent during the Kepple presidency. As a result the college dramatically expanded successful academic programs in theatre, environmental science (now Juniata's fastest growing major) and information technology. Juniata also added faculty in digital media, art, and instrumental music. The college also added or hired new faculty to bolster the institution's established strengths in the sciences, business, religion, peace and conflict studies, and history.

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 April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.