Officially beginning his tenure on July 1, Otterbein University’s newly appointed president, John Comerford, welcomed new students back to campus at the Freshman Convocation on Aug. 16 in Cowan Hall.
“I was drawn to join the Otterbein community the same way you likely were – I knew there was something special about this place,” said Comerford in a university address. “I knew our history of doing the 'right thing' before it is popular. I knew our reputation for student-focused academic excellence.”
Comerford previously served as president of Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois for four years. According to the university website, he worked to steadily increase enrollment growth to 596 undergraduates during his last year of presidency. He also has had other noteworthy milestones, including doubling the percentage of students of color on campus from 12 to 24 percent and leading a successful fundraising initiative totaling over $26 million.
The university’s Presidential Search Committee selected Comerford for the position after eight months. The committee consisted of trustees, students, faculty, staff and alumni.
“Each member of our search committee was committed to finding the best fit for Otterbein,” said Chairwoman of the Presidential Search Committee Cheryl Herbert in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch. “John Comerford impressed us with his record of success in expanding enrollment and diversity, while also growing the endowment.”
In an interview with The Columbus Dispatch, Mark Thresher, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, said Comerford was a clear candidate from the start of the search. He noted Comerford’s strong beliefs in college affordability, fundraising and diversity as major selling points.
Comerford highlighted the issue in a video interview with ThisWeek Community News.
“There are a lot of bright and capable students who don’t come from families with money, and if I have any hope for Otterbein, it’s that we can show that diversity in the student body is the right thing to do for the institution.”
Comerford said he plans on learning about what made Otterbein successful so he can help it continue to grow.
Since appointed, he has made several public appearances on campus, including handing out T-shirts to students at the annual First Flight weekend and visiting summer camps hosted at the Point.