GAMBIER — Julie Kornfeld, a highly regarded academic leader and committed educator, has been selected as the 20th president of Kenyon College.
The Kenyon College Board of Trustees voted unanimously on June 14, 2023, to approve the appointment of Kornfeld after a national search. Kornfeld will assume the role on October 1, 2023.
Kornfeld comes to Kenyon from Columbia University, where, since 2016, she has assumed increasing responsibility for the university’s academic affairs. She currently serves as vice provost for academic programs and provides strategic leadership for curricular offerings across the university’s undergraduate, graduate and professional schools.
Prior to that, she served as vice dean for education at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, where she is an associate professor of epidemiology. She is a former assistant dean, director of education and assistant professor at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.
In each of these posts, Kornfeld has been a champion for interdisciplinary collaboration, curricular innovation and cross-cutting institutional partnerships.
“I am very excited to be Kenyon’s next president,” Kornfeld said. “When I visited Kenyon and met with community members — faculty, students, staff, alumni and board members — I saw an institution that truly lives its liberal arts mission and values. I also saw an institution that cares deeply about preparing students for careers and lives with impact.”
“Kenyon is an institution whose vision and values are well established, resonant and aligned with my own — and one that is well positioned for the future,” Kornfeld said. “I look forward to working together to build on the strong foundation that Kenyon has established.”
Brackett B. Denniston III ’69, chair of the Board of Trustees and member of the search committee, noted that Kornfeld is joining Kenyon at a time of historic strength.
“We have every confidence that Julie Kornfeld’s experience will equip her to navigate the complex issues facing higher education, and that her intelligence, openness and energy will enable her to tap into and champion the many strengths of the Kenyon community.”
“Again and again, the committee was struck by her capacity to set a clear and often bold course,” Denniston said. He described her as being guided by a “mix of heart and sense.”
“Julie Kornfeld is a brilliant epidemiologist, educator and administrator who has served the Columbia community with great skill and judgment over the last seven years,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “On behalf of the entire university, I offer my gratitude and congratulations as she takes on this exciting new role as president of Kenyon College.”
Kenyon launched a national search for its new president in December 2022, when its 19th president, Sean Decatur, was tapped to become the president of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Kenyon trustee Aileen C. Hefferren ’88 H’12, member of the board’s executive committee, served as chair of the search committee and trustee David W. Horvitz ’74, H’98 served as vice chair.
The search committee included voices from all Kenyon constituencies, Hefferren said, and was aided by the national search firm Storbeck Search.
“Our selection of Julie Kornfeld from an outstanding pool of candidates reflects the input of hundreds of faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents on the qualities to seek in Kenyon’s next president — collaboration, courage and optimism, among them.”
“Throughout her career, Julie has removed barriers, built bridges and forged new paths for research, study and real-world impact,” Hefferren said. “She is particularly attuned to the ways in which a liberal arts education equips students to address complex societal issues.”
Hefferren noted that collaboration across Columbia’s schools and departments has flourished under Kornfeld’s leadership, as have its global programs.
“Julie is a firm believer in the importance of being engaged global citizens,” Wafaa El-Sadr, executive vice president for Columbia Global and university professor of epidemiology, said. “Distilling in students the willingness and ability to listen, observe and share with others from around the world has been central to her work throughout her career.”
“Kenyon has picked a true gem,” El-Sadr said.
During her tenure at the Mailman School of Public Health, which enrolls about 1,800 students, Kornfeld established an undergraduate concentration in public health for Columbia College and Barnard College students and launched unique dual-degree partnerships with Vassar College, Dickinson College and Columbia College, enabling students to earn a bachelor’s degree from a liberal arts college and complete an accelerated masters program at Mailman.
“Julie has worked with faculty and students across the social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities to foster interdisciplinary partnerships to take on our world’s most pressing challenges,” said Lisa Rosen-Metsch, dean of the Columbia School of General Studies.
Kornfeld’s record reflects her commitment to ensuring that those working to address the challenges of the world represent the diversity of the world. She helped to establish Mailman’s first Office of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion and led efforts to examine the equity of the school’s organizational structures.
“I have watched in awe of Julie over the years,” Rosen-Metsch added, “as she has an exceptional ability to create rich intellectual environments where all voices are heard, people feel valued, and the conditions are in place for everyone to flourish.”
Described as a skilled epidemiologist and devoted teacher, Kornfeld has taught numerous courses in public health and medicine and advised students across disciplines looking to improve the health of their communities and our global society. The University of Miami recognized her for outstanding teaching and mentoring.
“Julie’s passion as a teacher and a mentor was front and center in the conversations we had,” Ubongabasi Asuquo ’23 said. Asuquo was one of two student representatives on the search committee. “It was clear that she is invested in supporting student success both in and out of the classroom.” Asuquo added that Kornfeld’s area of expertise will be an asset at a time when the health and wellness of students, faculty and staff are pressing concerns on college campuses.
“Most importantly,” Asuquo said, “Julie’s warmth and her understanding of Kenyon’s sense of place shone through.”
Health and environmental policy advocate Kidd Solomon, who studied with Kornfeld at the Mailman School, described his former teacher as someone who “understands the power of genuine connection and curiosity.”
“Dr. Julie Kornfeld is the embodiment of ingenuity, compassion and vision,” Solomon said.
Kornfeld has presented and authored numerous publications in the area of health communication, health disparities and public health education.
She has overseen federally funded research programs and grants, including one from the Health Resources and Services Administration that allowed her to launch the nation’s largest dual-degree program in medicine and public health at the University of Miami.
Chris Gillen, professor of biology and member of the search committee, was excited by Kornfeld’s public health background and record of innovation. “As practiced by Julie Kornfeld, public health fits squarely within the liberal arts.”
“With impressive accomplishments as a teacher, scholar and administrator combined with a deep appreciation of liberal arts education, Julie is exceptionally well prepared to guide Kenyon as we take the next steps towards bolstering our distinctive strengths and innovating with intentionality,” Gillen said.
Kornfield has served as the principal liaison for Columbia’s reaccreditation and its representative to COFHE, a research consortium of highly selective colleges and universities focused on access, affordability and assessment. Her colleagues spoke of her great strength in interpreting not just data but the structural, cultural and interpersonal dynamics shaping them.
Erika Farfan, associate vice president for institutional research and member of the search committee, noted these qualities as well. “Like Kenyon’s students, faculty, staff and alumni, Julie is astute, thoughtful and value-driven while pursuing excellence with warmth and high regard for community,” she said. “I’m excited for the Kenyon community to meet and get to know her.”
Kornfeld earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University and both a master’s in public health and doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Miami.
She is married to journalist and television producer Fred Silverman, who currently serves as the chair of broadcast journalism at the New York Film Academy. They have three children — two sons and a daughter — all educated at liberal arts colleges.
Kenyon has a proud history of outstanding presidents, dating to 1824. Kornfeld will be the second woman.
Jeffrey Bowman, who has served as acting president since July 1, 2022, and Sheryl Hemkin who has served as acting provost, will continue in those roles until Kornfeld takes office. At that time, they will resume their positions on the College’s senior leadership team, as provost and associate provost respectively.
The Knox Pages Education section is brought to you by Herald's Appliance in Mount Vernon.