Dr. Jay Kenton returns to Eastern as interim president
By Rory Noble
In 1983, Dr. Jay Kenton began his higher education career at EOU as the assistant director of business affairs. Almost 30 years after leaving his position at Eastern, Kenton returns as the interim president. Kenton will officially begin his tenure as interim president on June 16.
Most recently, Kenton has served as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration for the Oregon University System. He has held similar positions in finance at University of Idaho, Oregon Institute of Technology and Portland State University.
Upon naming Kenton to the position on April 18, Dr. Melody Rose, chancellor of OUS said, “Jay is the right person to lead EOU right now as it moves through a right-sizing process that is necessary to set the campus up for success in serving the region’s students, education partners, and the many counties which EOU touches. I can think of no finer person to deliver on the promise of Eastern than Dr. Jay Kenton.”
Kenton fully understands what his position as interim president will involve. “My job is to provide leadership and stability to EOU during this very tumultuous time.” He continued, “I love EOU, La Grande and Eastern Oregon. It is a very important institution, not only for the region, but also for the entire state. I hope that we can find a way to turn the current challenges confronting us into opportunities not only for EOU, but for La Grande and all of Eastern Oregon.”
The current hot topic for EOU is the recent sustainability plan draft. However, Kenton understands that the recent approval of an institutional governance board for EOU is also an important factor to future success for the university. “An institutional board for EOU will be a great benefit and a lot of work, too. As interim president, I will need to play a fairly significant role in the formation and implementation of a governing board for EOU,” he said.
Kenton’s tasks for the implementation of the board will likely include discussions with potential board members in addition to nominations of potential board members to the OUS Board and governor for consideration. He will also assist in orienting new board members to their positions, briefing the new board on the state of EOU’s affairs and introducing the new board to EOU students and faculty.
“I hope that through this process of forming and implementing a governing board for EOU we can create what I call a ‘shared responsibility’ for EOU in the hearts and minds of the people of Eastern Oregon,” he added.
The new interim president has a good-sized list of priorities he would like to work on in his short time at EOU. They include enrollment management—with a focus on student success via recruitment, retention and graduation, building relationships with other education providers throughout EOU’s service area and sustaining a culture of excellence, respect and trust.
Other priorities for Kenton include distinguishing EOU in the higher education marketplace, recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty and staff, continuing positive relationships with the communities served by the university and repositioning Eastern for future financial sustainability. Kenton said, “My most immediate goal is to strengthen EOU’s enrollment management function as I see this as the key to financial sustainability and student success. This will obviously need to be very tightly coupled with execution of the financial sustainability plan.”
Bob Davies brought a culture of administrative visibility and student advocacy to the position of president on the Eastern campus and Kenton plans on doing the same. “EOU students should expect that I will be a compassionate advocate for their needs, ideas and goals. Students should also expect to see me around campus and at our regional sites and centers,” he said.
Kenton added that he has always enjoyed working with students in both administrative and teaching roles. He stated, “I pledge to be available to students to listen to their concerns, assist in resolving their issues and being available to work with them on major decisions. I also hope that I could serve as a teacher and mentor to students, as this is very important to me personally and for EOU’s success and development.”
The position is full of challenges, though Kenton noted, “The largest challenge I foresee is that I have been chosen to lead an institution for roughly one year when it may take multiple years to fully execute the sustainability plans. But, that said, I will do whatever I can to help EOU regardless of how long I am its interim president.”
“I hope that I can bring positive energy and a vision for a very different state of affairs; one premised on a better future full of opportunity and excitement about Eastern Oregon and EOU in particular,” he concluded.