VP Stafford announces retirement

Jackie Valley

After 38 years in higher ed, Stafford looks for some rest

Kathy Stafford, vice president for university relations, said she believes life is all about being in the “right place at the right time and walking through doors that are open to you.”

But after working 38 years, Stafford is ready to close one door: She plans to retire from her vice president post June 30.

“The first few months, I just want to chill out for a little while,” she said. “After 38 years in higher education, I feel like I deserve a little bit of rest.”

Stafford came back to her alma mater in 2003 as the vice president for university relations and development. She said she originally planned to stay through the completion of the Centennial Campaign in 2010 but decided she could retire early now that her position does not involve development.

Last year, Kent State hired Gene Finn as vice president for institutional advancement to be in charge of the university’s fundraising efforts.

“With the change in my responsibilities and not being responsible for fundraising anymore, I didn’t feel it was necessary for me to stay through the campaign,” she said.

Instead, Stafford said she plans to enjoy a respite from the 8 a.m. workdays while she ponders the next phase in her life.

“It would be nice to explore something new,” she said. “But, I have no idea what that would be.”

Even so, Stafford said she will miss everyone at Kent State – the university she affectionately refers to as “my place.”

The events of May 4, 1970, marked Stafford’s time as an undergraduate political science major and a member of the student government at Kent State. She was one of two students asked to be on the president’s commission on violence – a group of students and administrators who spent six weeks after the campus closed examining details and trying to determine what happened.

“For me, it was just an unbelievable experience to be a part of that,” she said. “It really affected my life.”

Although Stafford said she never imagined a career in higher education, she did budget analysis for higher education right after college, which led to a job at the Board of Regents. She also served as executive director of the Inter-University Council and in administrative roles at several other universities, including the University of Akron.

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, said he has enjoyed working with Stafford, in part because they both have a “shared commitment to the university” as alumni and executive officers.

“That provided a shared interest in Kent State that may sometimes go beyond how some feel about the institution,” he said.

Stafford said she is happy to call her alma mater the final stop in the lifetime of her higher education career.

“It’s hard to explain the specialness of coming back to end your career at the place that gave you your start,” she said. “It’s really special.”

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].