GREENSBORO — Guilford College's next president is a Rutgers University–Newark professor poised to put into practice his research on how colleges can aid the economic development of their local communities.
"I think we are bringing to Greensboro a guy who gets this moment in Greensboro," said Ed Winslow, the chairman of Guilford College's Board of Trustees. "He and Guilford are going to be significant contributors to the future of the city and the county."
Kyle Farmbry is set to take over in January, school leaders announced Wednesday. He will be the college's first Black president.
Farmbry is a professor of public administration at Rutgers University–Newark and was dean of its graduate school from 2015 to 2019. He holds a doctorate and master's degree in public administration, a J.D. in law, and a bachelor's degree in international affairs.
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Guilford College's history and values appealed to Farmbry. The school was founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and Farmbry attended a Society of Friends middle school in his hometown of Philadelphia and later attended Friends meetings in Washington D.C. and San Antonio.
He said that in looking at Guilford College today, he sees a school actively pursuing and promoting Quaker values, such as deep reflection, civic responsibility and social justice.
Farmbry also said he is aware of Guilford College's financial challenges, but the passion of its alumni and other school community members in their organizing and fundraising efforts over the past year helped attract him to the school.
The school is dealing with declining enrollment, pandemic-related costs and revenue loss, and debt from construction of campus buildings. Last fall, former interim president Carol Moore proposed that the college phase out nearly half of Guilford's academic majors and eliminate 30 percent of its full-time faculty positions.
But faculty, alumni and others at the college pushed back against that plan. Instead, under the leadership of current interim president Jim Hood, the school has been raising money to buy time until a new plan can be created. Meanwhile, faculty worked out a voluntary plan to cut payroll by about $1 million heading into the new academic year, through a mix of resignations, retirements and pay cuts in exchange for reduced workloads.
Once he takes office, Farmbry plans to start a strategic planning process to chart the university's next steps, with the hopes of coming up with a plan in the next six to eight months. That process is going to involve listening, dialog and community reflection, he said.
"I sensed before visiting Guilford that there was a tremendous sense of community among the faculty and staff and students of Guilford," Farmbry said. "This really is a place where people care about the institution."