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Question of the Day
ROANOKE — The decision to admit men was made first. Then a new name had to be chosen. Now, the transformed Randolph College will have a new president for its first academic year as a coed institution.
Trustees this week named John E. Klein, a former business executive who is executive vice chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, the Lynchburg, Va., college’s ninth president in a unanimous vote.
He replaces Virginia Hill Worden, interim president since July who oversaw the school’s decision to abandon a 116-year tradition as all-female Randolph-Macon Woman’s College to become a coed institution. Mr. Klein starts in August.
Lucy Hooper, president-elect of the board of trustees, said officials chose Mr. Klein from 100 applicants because of his broad experience and his appreciation for the traditions and history of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.
“He has strength in business and management, but he is so much more than that,” she said. “He fully appreciates the value of a liberal-arts education.”
He told the Associated Press that he hopes to improve the school’s financial footing and smooth the transition to coeducation, while bolstering the number of students and the college’s academic program.
He said he is impressed with the devotion both students and alumnae have expressed toward the school.
“That sense of community is something we’re going to be able to build on,” he said. “That will be the strength of Randolph College going forward.”
Mr. Klein has experience with helping a school make the transition to coeducation. He served on the board as girls and boys private secondary schools in St. Louis merged.
His mother and sister attended Wellesley College, one of about 60 women’s colleges that remain in the nation.
The decision to admit men was a financial one for Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. The college has struggled in recent years as it dipped into its $140 million endowment for operating funds because it had to offer large scholarships to attract and retain students.
The financial problems have not been solved, but college officials are encouraged because they have been able to reduce the amount of scholarship money offered with the admission of 57 men to the school of 700.
However, many alumnae were unhappy with the decision to abandon the all-female tradition, and donations of $1.7 million this year are down $500,000 from the gifts at this time last year.
By Michael P. Orsi
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