By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer | Posted: Monday, March 30, 2015 12:00 am
Last summer, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges renewed Kentucky Wesleyan College’s accreditation with a warning.
It gave the school two years to boost both its enrollment and its financial status.
“We’ve already made a significant step forward,” Tom Keith, the college’s new vice president for advancement, said Monday. “The future is very bright. We certainly anticipate moving off probation next year.”
Keith replaced Bart Darrell in the position that is responsible for development, alumni relations and public relations functions last month.
It had been vacant since Darrell was named president of the college in September.
Keith came from Middle Tennessee State University, where he had served as director of development for the Jennings A. Jones College of Business since 2012.
Darrell was the main reason he wanted to come to KWC, Keith said.
“He was on the athletics board at Western when I was there” as associate director of the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation and external affairs for Western Kentucky University Athletics from 2001-2005, Keith said of Darrell.
“He was always a go-getter,” Keith said. “He sees farther ahead than most college presidents. I don’t think he ever sleeps.”
Keith is a Louisville native who has family in Louisville and Nashville. And his wife’s family lives in southern Illinois.
Owensboro is about halfway between each part of the family, he said.
“But I don’t know that I would have come here if Bart wasn’t president of the college,” Keith said.
KWC has more than 2,500 alumni within a 100-mile radius of Owensboro, he said.
But 6,500 alumni live outside that radius, Keith said.
“We need to think bigger than Owensboro” with fundraising, he said.
Alumni events this spring are scheduled for Louisville, Lexington, Atlanta, Bowling Green and Columbus, Ohio.
“Tom understands that Kentucky Wesleyan has a special mission, not just to prepare graduates for careers, but for callings,” Darrell said. “Tom was in high demand, but he was drawn to what we do here and saw Wesleyan and Owensboro as the place for himself and his family. He has been successful in development at every level, and he becomes part of a team that will help take Wesleyan to the college’s greatest heights.”
Keith has a strong track record.
He was associate athletics director for development at St. Louis University from 2009-2012.
There, he managed athletic development operations and increased annual unrestricted giving to the Billiken Club by 50 percent.
Keith was director of development for the University of Louisville Athletics Association from 2006-2009 and assistant director of business development at the University of Louisville College of Business from 2005-2006.
He was heavily involved in the $72 million expansion campaign for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
While Keith was at WKU, he helped engineer a 60 percent increase in both annual gift revenues and number of donors. He also managed donor hospitality and luxury suite operations at E.A. Diddle Arena.
He has a bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of Tennessee and dual masters degrees in business administration and education from the University of Louisville.
Keith and his wife, Kendra, have two children, ages 7 and 8.
“We have no desire to move from Owensboro before they are in college,” he said. “We’re here for the long run.”
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, [email protected]