Alumni Council news
Preston Lentz finds leading the way suits him fine
Y ou have to be a bit of a pioneer to choose Kenyon," says N. Preston Lentz '72. "And the College recognizes and rewards that."
A native of Anniston, Alabama, Lentz heard his share of "You want to go where?" when he announced his choice to friends. As Southerners, many members of his family had attended Vanderbilt University. But his older brother, Perry C. Lentz, now McIlvaine Professor of English at Kenyon, had graduated from the College in 1964. He encouraged Preston to consider the small men's college in central Ohio.
"I've never regretted for a single instant choosing the College," says Lentz. "In every endeavor, from teaching to selling, to general communication with people, it has been my Kenyon education that has made me successful."
Like many liberal-arts students, Lentz had only a vague notion of what possible occupation would arise from his education. His hometown dentist and the pastor of his Episcopal church were two men he admired, so he flirted with the idea of careers in those fields. Meanwhile, he determined to follow his interests in English literature and American history.
In Preston Lentz's sophomore year, Perry Lentz joined the College's faculty. "My goal became to sneak through Kenyon before anyone knew we were related," he jokes. In actuality, few of the College's faculty members seemed aware of the relationship. "This," says Perry with a smile, "is because Preston was and is spontaneous, congenial, outgoing, and charming--so no one could have suspected that we were related."
Preston makes a lot of Smothers Brothers-style jokes about how his mom loved Perry best, but in more serious moments he says, "Perry was the best professor I had in any subject at any level. And being far from home, having Perry and his wife, Jane, in Gambier was a great source of support."
With his wedding to his sister Lucy's best friend, Smith College graduate Mary Ann Alexander, scheduled for just six weeks after his graduation, Lentz, still undecided about a career choice, applied his pioneering spirit to teaching high-school English and history at St. John's School in Houston, Texas. An outstanding soccer and tennis player at Kenyon, he also coached the varsity boys' and girls' tennis and boys' soccer teams at St. John's. "I thought it was something I would do for a year or two while considering what I really wanted to do," he says. The two years turned into six.
In 1978, Lentz was proposed as a candidate to replace retiring director of alumni affairs William H. Thomas Jr. '36. The opportunity came just as Lentz was anticipating a move to Hawaii, his wife's home state. While the director's position was eventually offered to Jefferson D. Robinson '49, Lentz was tapped to become assistant director of development and director of the Kenyon Fund, where he led the way into new territory. Quoting the University of Alabama's legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, Lentz says he accepted the position rather than pursue his plans in Hawaii because, "When mama calls, you come home."
While many circumstances nurtured Lentz's devotion to the College, probably the most significant was the intense and personal relationship with faculty members that is still a hallmark of Kenyon today. "I was sitting in [the late Professor of English] Phil Church's English class in my first year, calmly waiting for him to return our papers," recalls Lentz. "I was certain I came to the College with decent writing skills, so I wasn't too concerned. Then Professor Church informed us that one of us had received a grade of F but that it was nothing to worry about because it could be overcome. I was stunned when that person turned out to be me! Phil Church met with me one-on-one every single week for the rest of the year, and he taught me to write. [Professor Emeritus of French] Bob Goodhand was another caring person whose personal attention kept me in school when I was floundering."
After four years in Kenyon's development office, Lentz and his wife revived their plan to move to Hawaii, and he accepted a position with Dean Witter Reynolds in Honolulu.
Now pioneering in Nashville, Tennessee, Lentz is vice president of Cadinha and Company. He describes his job in client development and service as "yet another opportunity to use the skills I learned at the College."
Wherever he has been--Houston, Honolulu, or now Nashville--Lentz has served Kenyon. One of his greatest pleasures is organizing functions for alumni or prospective students for the alumni and admissions offices. He and Mary Ann, who has grown accustomed to his impromptu announcements that forty-five people will be dropping by for barbecue, are noted for their southern-style hospitality and graciousness.
"Preston has done his hardest work and his most crucial work recruiting students for the College," says brother Perry. "It's very difficult because in the area where he lives, the tradition of the small liberal-arts college isn't at all well established. But Preston never gets discouraged, and he surely never gives up."
As a member of the Communications Committee of Alumni Council, Preston Lentz and others are looking at such issues as the shape of future reunions and Kenyon's capacity to accommodate a growing alumni body. "Could the College handle as many as two thousand people at reunion?" wonders Lentz. "That's an interesting problem to consider. But the fact that it's a realistic question speaks to how successful alumni-relations efforts have been."
When not working or thinking up ways of attracting alumni and prospective students to Kenyon, Lentz enjoys sports (he's given up tennis in favor of golf), reading, and cooking. "Mary Ann and I love trying new recipes," he says. "We'll try just about any style of food that looks interesting. Ethnic food ingredients are quite readily available now in Nashville."
Like most of us, Lentz isn't immune to the occasional reexamination of the choices he has made in life. "Whenever I play `what if,'" he reflects, "the one thing I'm certain I would never change is my Kenyon experience. I was a pioneer then, and I'm one now, because of it."
Alumni Council President's Column
A report on Council's three committees
by William P. Russell '62
President, Alumni Council
In this report to the alumni body, I'd like to focus on the activities of the Alumni Council. But first let me share with you some demographic information about the Council.
The Council consists of fifteen members, twelve of whom are elected by the alumni and three of whom are appointed by the Council. The appointed positions include a member of the Class of 1997, a regional association president, and an alumnus or alumna selected to fill the vacancy created by the election of the Council's vice president. This year, males make up 60 percent of the Council and females 40 percent, which approximates the two-thirds male character of the alumni body, and all decades from the 1940s forward are represented. Geographically, Council members come from the East and West coasts, the Midwest, and the South and Southwest.
The Council organizes its work around current issues rather than relying on a more traditional standing-committee structure. At present, there are three committees: Communications, Marketing, and Student Relations.
Communications Committee. This committee has been working on improving the effectiveness of communication between Kenyon and its alumni, particularly regional association officers. The College will be preparing a calendar of events--such as athletic competitions and student performances in various locations--to share with alumni in those areas. The committee is also working with administrators to identify faculty members who may be traveling in the vicinity of regional associations that may then choose to schedule an event centered on the visit.
Another area of interest for the committee is Kenyon's presence on the World Wide Web. Members have begun to explore ways in which the College's web site (www.kenyon.edu) may be helpful in increasing alumni interest in Kenyon, especially in geographical areas where only small numbers of alumni exist, and through links to regional-association newsletters or sites maintained by affinity groups, individual classes, or regional associations.
Another topic being explored is the provision of continuing education offerings. Because committee members believe a significant number of alumni would be interested in continuing their educational ties with the College, they have suggested that Kenyon might use the Internet to post course syllabi and/or lecture notes for specific classes or host on-campus, week-long sessions based on a topic such as "Becoming Computer Literate" or "A Chance to Finish Moby Dick." Faculty members on sabbatical would seem to be good candidates for the first option (and would be paid a modest stipend for their efforts), while the second option would seem to have the potential for attracting alumni to Gambier and strengthening their sense of pride in the College.
Finally, the committee will continue to search for a central theme for all communications between Kenyon and its alumni. This could include a motto or slogan intended to capitalize on the momentum built by "Claiming Our Place: The Campaign for Kenyon."
Marketing Committee. This committee has broadened its goals for this year to cover admissions and athletics while continuing its interest in the success of the Kenyon Review and preserving its core objective of promoting Kenyon.
One idea that has been proposed is the formation of a group of "Kenyon Ambassadors." Consideration is being given to a Kenyon Ambassadors track at the next Kenyon Leadership Conference, at which time these volunteers would be trained and equipped to serve as promoters of the College.
In support of the admissions effort, the Toledo Regional Association has launched a pilot program in which alumni are assigned to work with a specific high school. It's expected that over time they will build relationships with administrators and increase awareness of Kenyon.
The committee itself has begun to build a relationship with the College's Department of Physical Education and Athletics. The objective for now is to determine how alumni can be of help to the department. One obvious way is in recruiting, but the committee will be looking for others as well.
Student Relations Committee. This committee has three areas of concern: the Career Development Center (CDC), substance abuse on campus, and relations between students and alumni.
Alumni involvement with the CDC has included participation in the Kenyon Career Network, the Extern Program, and the "Beyond" program. In February, the Alumni Council participated in "Beyond Our Hometowns," in which students had an opportunity to discuss their career questions with Council and Kenyon Fund Executive Committee members.
This past fall, the Drug and Alcohol Task Force Report, which had already been distributed to Campus Senate and other student groups, was discussed. College Physician Tracy W. Schermer also updated Council members on his role in alcohol and drug crisis situations and in student-networking efforts to curb abuse. The committee, which has offered to assist Schermer in any way possible, does not see an active role at this time, although it plans to remain informed about the status of alcohol and other drugs at Kenyon.
Much of the committee's work has centered on how to increase contact between students and alumni. The Alumni Council has developed a program to meet with student leaders throughout the coming year, beginning with an informal gathering in the fall to discuss ways in which alumni can be of more help to them. During the winter meeting, Student Alumni Association members will be invited to a dinner with Council members, and the Alumni Council will continue to participate in the "Beyond Our Hometowns" program. For the spring, the Alumni Council is considering sending a letter and alumni-association membership card to seniors.
The Student Relations Committee anticipates future discussions about improving alumni involvement in the CDC, which might lead to the creation of an advisory committee to the CDC. The committee will also continue discussing ways in which Council members might more thoroughly prepare seniors for the transition to alumni status.
I'd like to conclude this report by putting in a word for volunteerism for the College. There are many ways in which alumni can be of help to Kenyon and its students. They can assist the admissions office by attending parties for prospective students or going to high-school college nights or by referring the names of potential prospects gleaned from reading local newspapers. They can participate in regional events (from annual dinners to National Service Day activities) and serve on regional steering committees. In addition, alumni volunteers are always needed for the Kenyon Career Network and the Extern and Bed-and-Breakfast programs.
If you have any comments or ideas you would like the Alumni Council to consider, please let me know by writing to me at the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations and Annual Funds, College Relations Center, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022-9623.
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