The Oglethorpe University Board of Trustees (BOT) named Dr. Kathryn McClymond the university’s first female president following a Nov. 9-10 fall meeting, officially removing “interim” from her title.
When asked to share her feelings regarding becoming Oglethorpe’s first female president, McClymond stated, “Obviously, it’s an honor, but we have a lot of strong women leadership across this campus. So, it feels sort of in the natural order of things for the university, at the same time that I think it is an important milestone.”
McClymond is Oglethorpe’s 18th president and was unanimously chosen by the BOT after deciding a national search of candidates was not needed, according to an article published in The Source, the university’s community newsletter.
The Source’s article notes this decision follows McClymond’s role as interim president, which began in June 2023, and her role as provost and vice president for academic affairs, which began in July 2021.
She was “very honored” to fill the role, as in her time as provost and interim president, she has “really come to love this institution” and feels “we do really important work here, not just in the classroom, but in all the other work that we do with all of these students.”
In describing her role to readers, McClymond said that while “the university president reports to the Board of Trustees and is responsible for everything that happens at the university,” she likes to think of herself as the university’s “Chief Storyteller.”
“Oglethorpe’s got a great story to tell,” said McClymond. She explained that a lot of what she does is sharing the story of “what we’re doing, where we’re going and how other people can partner with us” with potential donors and foundations, while also communicating this vision to and from the BOT to faculty and staff.
“I view it as a real privilege to be, sort of, the face of Oglethorpe wherever I go,” said McClymond.
She went on to state that her position hinges on relationship-building, specifically, trying to match the people outside the Oglethorpe community with the work being done inside of it. “That’s really gratifying when you feel like you’ve matched someone who has a desire to change the world with an opportunity to do it here,” said McClymond.
She added that her job is essentially to “keep my head up” and ensure “we stay true to our mission and that we’re moving forward.”
“When I think of President McClymond, I think ‘committed,’” said Rebecca Sandidge, vice president for enrollment management at Oglethorpe.
“President McClymond came into the interim role very clear with her message of ‘steady, focused, forward,’ and I think that was so timely and resonant because we were going through so much change,” said Sandidge.
According to McClymond, her impact on the community lies in securing the resources to tell OU’s story, which, for her, “is all about equipping the faculty and staff.”
She continued, “If I’m doing my job right, the faculty and staff feel like they are equipped to do the work that they want to do,” said McClymond.
Echoing this, Meredith Raimondo, vice president for student affairs at Oglethorpe, stated that what she really appreciates about McClymond as a boss is that “I have every confidence that she trusts me to do my job and do it well.”
“That sense of someone believing in you, I think, makes a huge difference to one’s personal success,” said Raimondo.
McClymond stated that what she loves most about the role is “getting to know people across our community more.” She explained that she also views herself as the university’s “Chief Cheerleader” and loves attending student events, games and theater productions. “It’s one of the ways that I feel like I get a little bit of time with all of you (students),” said McClymond.
“I see students light up when they see her,” said Sandidge. “It’s very infectious, and in a community where we value DEI and belonging, for students to feel like they belong and refer to her as ‘my president,’ there’s some pride and some swag there.”
Speaking on her approach to DEI initiatives, Raimondo stated, “President McClymond is really deeply committed to OU's mission and to making sure that OU is a place where diverse students can really thrive and succeed.”
President McClymond has stayed true to the university’s promise of diversity, equity and inclusion by reminding students “that she’s as important in creating that community as anybody else,” said Sandidge.
To preserve this sense of belonging, McClymond expressed that she wants students to stop and talk with her about their experiences, “Donors want to know the stories about all of you, and so the more I hear about what you all are experiencing here, both the bad as well as the good, the better I can be at my job.”
Raimondo encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities to engage with President McClymond, like her monthly lunches, to share these experiences and “help shape her vision.”
Additionally, Raimondo noted students should talk with McClymond because she is a very careful listener and asks great questions, “She wants to hear people’s perspectives and really think them through before she makes a decision.”
“She is extremely, extremely intelligent, so she will ask really poignant questions to get to an answer and an understanding,” said Sandidge. “I like the fact that she leans into her uniqueness, she’s a quilter, she loves tradition, she asks questions, and I just think there’s a genuineness to her that is infectious.”
According to an article from The Source introducing her as interim president, McClymond is a historian of religions, trained in Hinduism and Judaism, with a research emphasis on comparative religious ritual.
She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in religious studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a B.A. in history and literature from Harvard University, as stated by the "Biography" page of the "Office of the President" tab of Oglethorpe's website.
During the five months of McClymond’s interim presidency, Oglethorpe reached its highest total enrollment in its history with 1,529 students, maintained stable finances with a fiscally responsible approach to spending and reconstituted a student success office designed to increase retention and improve student outcomes, as per The Source.
When asked about her future goals for the university, McClymond stated she wants “to continue our tradition of academic excellence and resource our faculty and our staff, in particular, to take it to the next level.”
“I talk a lot with faculty and staff about ‘building the Oglethorpe of 2035,’ which is our bi-centennial,” said McClymond. “There’s this marriage of our almost-200-year traditions, our commitments to the liberal arts, our commitments to academic excellence, and to the liberal arts small-school experience that I want to protect.”
Speaking on her legacy, she stated that she “would love people to say of her, ‘Dr. McClymond made it possible for me to be the best at what I contribute to this university.’”
McClymond emphasized her excitement, reminding students not to hesitate to use her as a resource, “I’m so excited to be here. I’m really honored, and again, I want students to feel like they can come talk to me: it’s your university.”
*This article was written as an assignment for COM-240-001: Intro to Newswriting (Fall 2023)