FINDLAY - Katherine Fell wants to make one thing clear: the renovation and construction going on at the University of Findlay's president's house was planned before she was hired.
Mrs. Fell, the university's first female president, admits it was her idea to finish the previously unused basement of the North Main Street house in an orange-and-black Oiler theme for student gatherings.
"It's clearly designed for student use, and we hope that they will use it, because we're used to having lots of young people in our house," said Mrs. Fell, 56, the mother of six grown children. "We want to keep it that way."
A native of Stamps, Ark., and lifelong Southerner - she and her husband, Roger, raised their family in Shreveport, La. - Mrs. Fell began her tenure as the 17th president of the University of Findlay July 1. A presidential inauguration ceremony is set for 4 p.m. Friday on the front steps of Old Main.
A former English professor at Centenary College in Shreveport, Mrs. Fell spent the last 12 years at the 1,000-student liberal arts college in fund-raising and development. That experience stood out to Findlay's trustees.
As part of the inaugural events on Friday, Mrs. Fell, said the university plans to launch the public phase of the largest comprehensive fund-raising campaign in its history. She said the university has been successful in the past with targeted fund-raising for building projects, but it is ready for a comprehensive campaign to raise funds for bricks-and-mortar projects as well as endowments and the annual fund.
"The University of Findlay is very well run," she said. "It operates within its budget and manages to have reserves left at the end of each year for building projects and infrastructure repair. It's in a very good position for a mature fund-raising effort."
Although she declined to release details about the campaign, Mrs. Fell said that if university trustees approve the plans, the campus hopes to build "a significant addition" to the Davis Street academic building, among other projects.
Dr. C. Richard Beckett, longtime chairman of the university board of trustees, said Mrs. Fell's experience in development was just one factor that impressed the committee charged with finding a replacement for retiring President DeBow Freed. "She has all the grace and enthusiasm and honor you would want in a president," he said. "She stood out."
Skylar Mettert, Student Government Association president and a member of the presidential search committee, concurred.
"She was such an attractive candidate because of what she accomplished down in Louisiana at Centenary as far as development," he said. "I think she'll be great for bringing donors into campus, attracting more people to Findlay, and really selling the university."
In addition to fund-raising, Mrs. Fell said her second major goal is to unify the campus "around a central mission."
"We have six colleges. We have more than 60 majors, but I think we'll continue to be a university that is accessible and where lives are transformed to the degree that we can see ourselves supporting one mission, not six different missions, but one," she said.
Mrs. Fell said she's impressed with what she's seen so far of the 4,000-student university, including the wide variety of academic programs Findlay offers in areas ranging from equestrian studies to pharmacy.
"One of the attractors to the university for me was that it sustains its commitment to traditional liberal arts as the underpinning of a great education and offers interesting professional preparation," she said. "It's clearly been confident enough to try new programs and humble enough to give up a totally traditional way of doing things."
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