Update from April Board of Trustees Meeting and President’s Town Hall

Dear Oglethorpe Community,

The Spring Semester is quickly coming to an end, and you have been busier than ever. In the Town Hall Meeting after our April Board of Trustees meeting, I reflected on how far we have come since this time last year. Thank you to everyone who put forth the extra effort to see us through the season of transition and keep our focus on serving students. It’s because of your efforts and your support that we have fully transitioned into a new and exciting future at Oglethorpe, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

The Board meeting arrived at the three-quarter mark in the year, not technically the end, and our financial reporting presented numbers as of the end of March. We still have almost two full months left in our fiscal year, and as you know all too well, there is a heavy lift in student recruitment and Advancement in the last remaining weeks before June 30.

I introduced our new Vice President of Advancement Sarah Emerson to the Board and again at the Town Hall. I happened to run into Georgia State University President Brian Blake at an event after Sarah’s hire had been announced, and he let me know we had recruited away one of their top development officers. She is proving that assessment to be 100% accurate as she hit the ground running upon her arrival April 15.

New Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Gabriel Barreneche, attended the Board dinner on April 18, and he will join us from Berry College on July 1. We look forward to engaging with him at a few intervals between now and then. He brings strengths and experiences that are a perfect fit for Oglethorpe, and I know he will make a tremendous impact.

Our financial position remains healthy as we work to be fiscally responsible in our spending. We recently achieved a milestone when the university’s endowment exceeded $50 million for the first time in our history, and we continue to celebrate the reduction in our long-term debt.

The Board, as well as members of our community, have been paying close attention to the national news of colleges forced to close, including most recently Birmingham-Southern College. As we explained to the trustees and again at the Town Hall, we have several distinct advantages over BSC in our fiscal management: revenue is growing, debt is decreasing, the endowment is expanding, and we are drawing less from the endowment each year as we rely on revenue from operations.

I am grateful for the excellent leadership we receive from Pete Stobie and the team in Finance, in collaboration with our Board of Trustees, along with everyone’s careful financial stewardship this year. We will remain vigilant and responsible in our spending. In that spirit, the Board approved a $37.6 million budget that is projected to help us end next fiscal year in the black.

Revenue projections for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, are dependent on our total enrollment. Our first-year student recruitment continues to be a priority even in the face of ongoing challenges created by the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) update by the Department of Education. We are ahead of last year in every statistical category of recruitment except deposits. We believe this is a direct result of the lag in families filing the FAFSA, and the Office of Enrollment Management is doing everything possible to address the real problems and concerns raised by the FAFSA changes.

To compensate, we shifted our priority deadline from May 1 to May 15, like many universities across the country. We also elected to send multiple financial aid award letters rather than one, so at least families would know what they qualified for in merit aid even if the federal aid amount was not yet available.

Total enrollment is also impacted by retention. Student success is a university priority and an area we’re investing in. Our future is in retention. The formula is simple: the more students we retain and help persist to graduation, the better our students do in launching their careers and the more stable our finances are.

I also briefly mentioned at the Town Hall that the university’s website is undergoing an upgrade. Most of the improvements are technical and on the back end, but you will notice this summer an enhancement to the look and function of the main site while the other domains will be upgraded over time. The entire project should be completed in 18 months.

In conclusion, I hope to see you at many of the events we have scheduled at the end of this semester. Looking ahead to fall, be sure to mark your calendar for the big, university-wide celebration Sept. 19-20 for the Presidential Inauguration. In addition to the investiture ceremony, there will be service projects, special academic events and a post-ceremony meal together.

I hope your summer is restorative and that you can make use of the wellness days the Staff Council proposed and the Senior Administrative Leadership Team approved.

We are making progress on the vision of being known as Atlanta’s premiere undergraduate learning experience. Thank you for all the ways you contribute to making it a reality.



Kathryn McClymond, Ph.D. (she, her)