Kelly Kerner will be leaving Bates College and joining Bowdoin as senior vice president for development and alumni relations. He will replace Bill Torrey, who worked at the College for more than 20 years and is currently serving as vice president for university advancement at Bentley University.
On November 28, a search committee composed of students, staff, faculty and trustees announced Kerner's appointment.
"Meeting that many people who were that good at what they do was really incredible and it also gives me a lot of faith that we've chosen someone who is really capable," said Jessie Kohn '13, who sat on the committee. "To stand out in a pool of applicants like that is a huge accomplishment."
Kerner comes to Bowdoin from his position as vice president for advancement at Bates, which he has held for the past three and a half years. Before that, he worked in fundraising at Middlebury for 14 years.
Kerner will now oversee an operation that raised $9.8 million in annual giving during the 2011 fiscal year, compared to the $4.7 million given by Bates alumni and friends in the same period.
"I think that among NESCAC schools, it seems clear that Bowdoin is among the very best at raising money, so that certainly brings with it for any new vice president a certain amount of pressure and expectation that the numbers will stay high and continue to move forward," Kerner said.
Kerner faces several challenges as he takes over the development office.
He will have to focus on raising engagement among alumni from the 1980s and '90s, developing a plan to incorporate social media into his office's strategy, and maintaining giving amid economic anxiety.
The economic recession has impacted Bowdoin finances, and the task of fundraising will become more difficult in the coming years.
"The challenge really is a general one of maintaining the excellence of the office and making it even better," said President Barry Mills. "At the same time, creating and helping us think through strategies will help us to continue to make the College excellent in what I think will be more uncertain times."
Although Kerner said that he didn't have any plans to immediately implement, Kohn mentioned that the development office has been focusing on raising awareness of its efforts among current students in order to maintain strong connections with recent graduates.
"There are a few programs I think they are thinking about implementing, like a leadership program within the seniors who are graduating that will target a few select leaders within the class and help them connect their classmates to the development office," Kohn said.
Kerner, who starts January 1, seems to be up to the task.
"He has a tremendous amount of experience leading a development organization and I believe he can raise money," said Mills.
"For anyone, at any stage in their career to get the opportunity to work at Bowdoin College is an incredible honor and an incredible opportunity," said Kerner.