Finn makes transition from nation’s capital to Kent

Tim Magaw

The scent of new furniture and office supplies filled Gene Finn’s small office on the second floor of the University Library. A few papers are scattered in front of him on his desk, and the walls are bare. Besides a few pictures of his family and a plant on his desk, the temporary office looks as if it’s barely been lived in.

Finn is the new vice president for institutional advancement, and he is starting his third week on the job. Throughout the process of his hiring, Finn said everyone was telling him that Kent State was the best-kept secret in Northeast Ohio.

“I think that’s been really confirmed in the last few weeks,” Finn said.

He arrived from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. where he served as associate vice president of advancement and interim vice president of advancement. Finn said he lived in downtown Washington and used to walk to work. Now, he commutes from Aurora.

But Finn said adjusting to Kent State hasn’t been a problem.

“It’s been more of a geography issue – coming from a large metropolitan area,” he said. “But I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to reflect on it much.”

George Washington and Kent State have similarities, Finn said, because they’re both large, complex bureaucracies. He also said Kent State is in the place where George Washington was about 15 years ago. At that time, George Washington didn’t receive the amount of accolades it deserved or have its current place in national rankings.

But ten years from now, Finn said Kent State will be where it should be in those rankings.

Finn said he’s been making the rounds at Kent State, meeting faculty, staff, students and administrators. He said there’s been a bit of a learning curve just as there is for students at the beginning of the semester.

But aside from meeting university personnel, Finn has leapt into the university’s fundraising efforts. Kent State is in the early stages of its Centennial Campaign, which is a major fundraising initiative that will coincide with the university’s 100-year anniversary. The university’s last capital campaign ended in 2003, closing at $121.9 million.

“Over the next few months, we’ll analyze where we are in (the Centennial Campaign) and where we need to be going,” he said.

Finn said President Lester Lefton is very committed to fundraising.

“It’s why I’m here,” he said, adding he’s the president’s commitment “in the flesh.”

Finn worked with Lefton at George Washington when Lefton was dean of its College of Arts and Sciences.

“I think the reason why (Lefton) had me come here is that he’s got big ambitions for this place,” Finn said. “He wanted a person who comes to the office and thinks where the resources are going to come from.”

Finn’s position is new to the university. Fundraising and development had originally been part of Vice President Kathy Stafford’s portfolio, but she now concentrates on university relations and marketing.

Contact administration reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].