Richard Kneedler has worked in higher education for over 40 years, is President Emeritus of Franklin & Marshall College, and was Interim President of Rockford College (IL). As Operating Officer of Ann Duffield & Colleagues he assists Ann in practice management.
During Dick’s 14-year tenure as President at Franklin & Marshall (1988-2002), the College created a new curriculum; increased enrollment of high-achieving students, including higher numbers of international students; improved the six-year graduation rate to over 80%; enhanced special opportunities for most students (e.g. first-year seminars, independent study, summer research fellowships, and study abroad); quadrupled endowment to over $300,000,000; built new or comprehensively renovated arts, science, library, recreation, residential and commercial facilities; began a new, large community service program and a new Center for Liberal Arts and Society; increased Faculty numbers and reduced the student/faculty ratio to below 11/1; and continued the College’s traditions of financial discipline, balanced budgets, operating surpluses, and an improving balance sheet. F&M also conducted two campaigns that raised nearly $200,000,000 under Dick’s leadership.
At Rockford College (May 2006-November 2007), Dick was asked to build on the College’s academic strengths and ties to the Rockford community, stabilize finances, address debt issues, explore partnership opportunities, and prepare the way for the appointment of a settled president. In one and a half years, the College reversed seven years of budget deficits, reduced debt, restored credit relationships, increased visibility, located a willing partner (ultimately not chosen) and strengthened its management team. The presidential search was successful and the new President took office in June 2008.
Since Dick’s retirement from Franklin & Marshall, he has served as consultant to dozens of independent colleges through the Council of Independent Colleges, The Presidential Practice, and Yaffe & Company. He has written or spoken on higher education finance and strategic issues for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, InsideHigherEd.com, the Council of Independent Colleges, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, and the National Association of the Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church. Dick served on the CIC and NAICU boards of directors and was a founder of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, the Annapolis Group of selective liberal arts colleges, and the Centennial (all-sports) Athletic Conference. He co-authored (with Dr. Alice Drum) Funding a College Education: Finding the Right School for Your Child and the Right Fit for Your Budget, a guide to financial aid issues for parents and students published in 1996 by the Harvard Business School Press.
Dick grew up in Western Pennsylvania, attended public schools in Greensburg, PA, the Valley School of Ligonier, and the Kiski School. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Franklin & Marshall and received his Ph.D. in French Language and Literature from the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Suzette, have a son and daughter and four grandchildren. They live in Lancaster, PA and Naples, FL.
Since my retirement from Franklin & Marshall, I have had the opportunity to become acquainted and to work closely with dozens of colleges and universities in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia in consulting and evaluation assignments. I am struck by the worldwide spread of the American model for Higher Education even as it has increasingly been threatened in its home country due largely to economic factors.
In 2006 and 2007, I was given a special opportunity to serve as Interim President of Rockford College, in Rockford, IL. The College has a long and interesting history. It was founded by Congregational Church members as a sister institution to Beloit College and became a tertiary institution in the 1870s. One of its first two students at the college level was Jane Addams, who graduated as valedictorian and supported the College ardently throughout her remarkable life, including long service as a Trustee, which she was when she became the first woman Nobel Laureate from North America.
RC, as alumni and friends know the College, is an academically strong institution with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and a history of sending students on to excellent graduate and professional schools. It has experienced periods of prosperity and economic challenge typical of many independent colleges. What has not changed is its commitment to serving students and its community faithfully and well.
My time at Rockford provided me with an awareness of the economic challenges faced by many small colleges and refocused my research and consulting on institutions that provide unique higher educational access for underserved populations. It convinced me that the “standard” higher educational model exemplified by the US News rankings understates the importance of 100s of small colleges that require infusions of belief, interest, and commitment if the American vision of upward mobility for all qualified persons is to be realized. The danger faced by many of our independent colleges has been greatly heightened by the 2007-2009 stock market fall and recession. During that period and afterwards, I have focused my research on financial indicators and modeling to assist institutions and associations in estimating the potential risks that they face.
Since mid-2010, I have been developing research on financial results for independent colleges and universities during the 2007-9 period, based on IRS Form 990s. Study of this period looks to be a helpful source of information on institutional strategic thinking under stress, differential success, and lessons for institutions going forward. These data will help us to develop comparison databases for clients so that they can both understand their relative performance in an especially trying period and assess strategic options for the future in the light of their and their competitors’ performance.
I am hopeful that we can provide useful assistance to our clients so that they can bring together knowledge of best practices in institutional planning, finance and fund development so that many more of the vitally important but financially threatened colleges can achieve long, successful futures of service to our society.