- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2007

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.”

Mr. Klein, a graduate of Princeton University, holds a law degree from the University of Michigan. He has lived and worked in several countries and speaks Spanish, French and Portuguese.

Mr. Klein, 61, spent 28 years with Bunge Ltd. — 18 of them as president and chief executive officer of Bunge North America, an arm of the global agribusiness company.

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.

Emily Mills of Virginia Beach, president of the alumnae association, said the number of graduates who are resistant to the admission of men is dropping, although a group remains adamantly opposed.

She expects Mr. Klein to help assuage the opponents.

“His goal is to build a bridge from the past to the future,” she said. “He has an absolutely infectious energy. His mind-set is can-do.”

One of the tough decisions that the college may face early in Mr. Klein’s term is the prospect of selling some of its art collection to shore up school finances.

Mr. Klein, who described himself as an arts supporter with a particular interest in American art, said he has been impressed with the college’s Maier Museum of Art’s collection of more than 3,400 pieces.

Most are 19th- and 20th-century paintings, drawings and photographs, and prized pieces include George Bellows’ “Men of the Docks,” 1912, and Edward Hopper’s “Mrs. Scott’s House,” 1932.

“The board may be forced to do something with some of the collection,” Mr. Klein said, but “I’m confident that whatever is done, the college will still have a magnificent collection.”

The school officially becomes Randolph College on July 1 and has been busy changing the name on about 40 exterior and 100 interior signs. The highway directional signs are already up, college spokeswoman Brenda Edson said.

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