Even in Summer, Kenyon Brings in $200,000 With Camps
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
Dozens of events take place in Rosse Hall every year, but one of the biggest is something few students ever see. Every summer, Kenyon hosts an Ohio barbershopper conference that concludes with a barbershop music performance.
“It’s really one of the highlights of the whole summer,” Manager of Business Services Fred Linger said.
Linger is in charge of planning the events that students perhaps know least about — those that happen when school’s out. The College plays host to up to 40 different visiting groups, usually conferences or programs, each summer.
“Every college wants to make sure it uses its physical plant to the best of its potential during the summer,” Vice President for College Relations
Sarah Kahrl said. Doing so “provides meaningful income and brings new people” to Kenyon.
The College makes an average profit of $200,000 each summer, according to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman. “This money goes directly into the College’s operating revenue to support all programs,” he said in an email.
“It’s got to be one of the best small businesses around, because we’re only open for business 10 weeks,” Linger said. “And I don’t know how many businesses can be open 10 weeks and net six figures.”
Besides the additional revenue, summer programming raises Kenyon’s profile significantly. Many students “had their very first experience with Kenyon as a high school student and as a writer,” Kahrl said, referring to The Kenyon Review’s Young Writers Workshop. Kahrl said the Young Writers program “brings almost 5 percent of the entering class … so it’s a key admissions driver for us.”
The summer months also bring the Kenyon Academic Partnership (KAP) to campus. Originated and co-directed by Professor of American Studies Peter Rutkoff, KAP partners with select Ohio secondary schools to provide advanced courses to high school students, and teachers come to Kenyon each summer for training.
Head Men’s Swimming Coach Jim Steen also founded Total Performance Sports Camps, a company that holds summer camp sessions for young swimmers at Kenyon, Calvin College and Colgate University.
Many groups, however, have no connection to Kenyon beyond their use of the College’s facilities. Groups on the schedule for this summer include the aforementioned barbershoppers, a band camp, a Red Cross training institute, a squash camp and a mime workshop called “Mime Youth.” One major event coming to Kenyon this year is Pelotonia, the biking event that raises money for cancer research. For Pelotonia, “we’ll have probably 2,500 to 3,000 people on campus with about 700 of them spending the night,” said Linger, who compared the logistical difficulties of this event to “a cross between Commencement and Summer Sendoff.”
All told, over 5,000 guests will visit campus this summer for periods ranging from a few days to several weeks.
Complex spreadsheets provide estimates of how many people AVI has to feed, broken down by week. On Thursday, June 28, for example, it is estimated that AVI will have to provide lunch for 886 people, which is more than half of Kenyon’s student body.
Kenyon’s summer programming schedule has taken off recently — Linger noted that revenues have quadrupled since he began organizing the College’s summer activities in 1999. Much of this increase is because of “infrastructure building that makes it possible for Kenyon to have a summer presence” like never before, according to Kahrl.
The construction of new facilities such as the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC) and the North Campus Apartments, plus the complete renovation of Peirce Hall, has greatly expanded the College’s potential for summer use. Air-conditioned spaces are still “one of the bigger challenges,” Linger said. Mather, McBride and Caples Residence Halls are Kenyon’s only three air-conditioned dorms in addition to some apartments. KAC-adjacent South campus dorms are “attractive to sports camps, but sometimes they’re pretty hot,” Linger said. Buildings like the North Campus Apartments also give Kenyon “something to advertise,” Linger said, because some adult groups may not want to stay in dormitories.
Even as Kenyon works to expand its summer presence and investigates “develop[ing] programming that really identifies Kenyon [and] that could help us reach new audiences,” according to Kahrl, the College seems eager to preserve the quiet and relaxed nature of Gambier in the summertime.
“Everyone’s here to have a good time,” Linger said. “Some of these people are using their family vacation time to be here, and so we hope to give them a positive and memorable and productive experience.”