Knox College, academically the most distinguished national liberal arts college in Illinois and a paradigmatic College That Changes Lives, seeks a new President, with a target appointment date of July 1, 2021. An independent, four-year, residential baccalaureate institution of approximately 1,200 students (from 45 states and—pre-COVID—49 countries), Knox currently offers 60 courses of study with a student-faculty ratio of 11-1. As the Prairie Fire, Knox fields 18 varsity sports in the Division III Midwest Conference, with particular recent success in women’s and men’s soccer. The College’s enduring hallmarks, dating from its founding in 1837 by abolitionists, are academic rigor; student access without regard to gender, race or financial circumstances; a social justice ethos and a supportive, richly elaborated student culture that inspires high affinity and loyal, active alumni devotion. The word alumni use most often in describing their Knox experience is “transformational.” For an aspiring, sitting or former president committed to extending a premier liberal arts and sciences education beyond typical elite-college matriculants, Knox offers a platform for national leadership.
Knox touts itself as “human-powered.” Its location, midway between Chicago and St. Louis, affords both urban proximity and a small-town setting conducive to a close-knit campus and local community engagement. Its academic attractions include strengths in creative writing, history and the sciences. Experiential education and immersion terms across disciplines are well established. The College has a strong commitment to internationalism, including its piloting of a Peace Corps Preparatory Program that is now a model for other American institutions. Knox is a broad-minded campus notable for its passionate student activism, but also for its kindness and warmth. Accolades from the New York Times and Washington Monthly cite Knox’s effectiveness in launching engaged graduates, encouraging public service and promoting social mobility. Knox has the most diverse enrollment among Associated Colleges of the Midwest institutions: some 40% are domestic students of color and almost 30% identify as LGBTQ. A member of the American Talent Initiative, Knox is among the most successful colleges in retaining and graduating students who are first-generation. The College ranks in the top four percent of liberal-arts-college producers of PhDs.
As Knox takes up its post-COVID future, it can draw upon a history of managing successfully with constrained resources, while always staying true to its mission. The new President will build on the 10-year tenures of Knox’s retiring incumbent president and her predecessor. Their leadership, together with exemplary trustee stewardship and faculty and staff resourcefulness, have strengthened the College’s situation and enhanced its sense of place. The past decade has seen notable gains in both the College’s endowment (which nearly tripled in value to $176 million) and annual fund raising. The Knox 2018 strategic plan, launched in 2013, nudged the College towards greater curricular differentiation in the admissions marketplace—including the addition of a Bachelor of Science degree, new majors in business and data science and the creation of five new minors linking arts-and-sciences study to career paths. Recent years also saw the renovation of historic Alumni Hall (1890) as a new gateway to the campus, the construction of the Whitcomb Art Center (for art and art history) and the re-imagined core of the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center. With the redevelopment of Seminary Street as an independent shopping district, the campus is now more deeply integrated into the life of Galesburg, IL (population 30,197), the seat of Knox County, a railroad hub three hours from Chicago and “home to the largest number of historic houses in Illinois.”
Knox seeks a new President who can freshly tell and extend the College’s story. The position demands enthusiasm for Knox’s particular access mission, location, history and traditions. Knox needs its new President to be an enterprising ambassador for the College in pursuing new admissions pipelines and securing financial support—promoting its excellence and distinctions not only to prospective parents and students but to secondary schools, admissions counselors and potential benefactors and trustees outside the Knox community. Faculty and staff members typically outperform the resources at their disposal—they hope for an advocate and champion. The new President needs to be visibly present on campus and a booster for the city of Galesburg as the College anchors downtown renewal.
Knox will give full consideration to both traditional and non-traditional candidates. The ideal candidate—regardless of professional background—will be an educator at heart who relishes working with teacher-scholars and engaging undergraduates in an academic community whose diversity is a microcosm of the emerging 21st-century United States. Candidates must possess sophistication in budgeting and financial modeling: the new President will assist the Board in returning the College to a balanced budget while reducing its tuition discount rate to a sustainable level. An informed understanding of the evolving higher education landscape and readiness to engage faculty in prioritizing and renewing academic programs consistent with both arts-and-sciences study and marketplace demands are essential.
All Knox constituencies express a strong preference for candidates with first-hand personal experience of a national liberal arts college, whether as an undergraduate, administrator, faculty member, trustee or parent. The ideal candidate will be an entrepreneurial thinker with the aptitude to chart and facilitate institutional change and to assess and improve organizational performance. Candidates must demonstrate intercultural competence and an inclusive disposition. A record of support and advocacy for individuals from diverse identities, histories, backgrounds and experiences, as well as the ability to build the capacity of colleagues in this work, is essential. The ideal candidate will possess candor and confidence, pragmatism and a lack of pretension conducive to relationship building within the College and across the communities it serves. Exceptional communication and interpersonal skills, including a high degree of diplomacy, discretion, empathy and forbearance, are essential. Candidates should manifest strong collaborative energy, integrity, sound judgment and the ability to make and explain difficult decisions credibly and expeditiously.
Review of candidate materials will begin immediately and continue until the appointment. A complete application will include a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae or résumé and contact information for five professional references who can speak about the candidate’s qualifications for this appointment. Named referees will not be contacted without the candidate’s prior consent. Expressions of interest, nominations and inquiries should be directed to Knox’s search consultant, Mr. Chuck O’Boyle of C. V. O’Boyle, Jr, LLC, at [email protected], who will furnish a detailed specification upon request.
Knox College is committed to hiring and retaining a diverse staff at all levels of the College who not only reflect the demographics of our students, but also fully embrace the ideals of inclusivity. Our campus is committed to the ongoing work of creating an equitable and inclusive community. We encourage applications from those individuals who are enthusiastic about and dedicated to exceeding the expectations of our diverse student population.