Centre College Chief Financial Officer to retire
John E. Cuny, who has served as vice president for finance and treasurer at Centre College since 2000, recently announced his plans for retirement. Cuny will continue to work at the College in a full-time role for one more fiscal year, until June 30, 2012. To assure a smooth transition, he will remain in a half-time capacity for an additional year, through June 2013.
The long-term planning with which Cuny has approached his retirement comes as no surprise to those familiar with the cautious and measured outlook that has informed his fiscal management style over the last 11 years.
“Centre College has experienced best practices with its financial affairs every year since John Cuny arrived,” says John A. Roush, president of Centre College. “His tenacity and good judgment as chief financial officer have been profoundly important throughout the past decade. John’s leadership in all areas has been remarkable.”
Robert T. “Bob” Brockman ’63, chairman of Centre’s Board of Trustees and chairman and CEO of the Reynolds and Reynolds Company, agrees. “The most important characteristic of a chief financial officer,” says Brockman, “is that one must have complete confidence in the numbers he produces. This level of confidence is earned not only through accurate accounting but also the detailed explanation of the numbers and the trends.”
Brockman adds, “From his arrival at Centre and during his entire tenure, John has inspired that level of confidence for me and all the rest of the members of the Board and the administration, allowing us to make the necessary policy decisions to guide the institution successfully through one of the most turbulent economic times in recent history.
“There is no higher praise for a CFO,” Brockman concludes.
By employing a “glide path” approach to budgeting (extending income and expenditure patterns out over five-, ten-, and fifteen-year periods), Centre has been able to weather not just one but two economic downturns under Cuny’s guidance.
It is this ability to approach strategic planning and growth through the lens of careful and disciplined budgeting that Cuny sees as one of Centre’s greatest strengths. “In all my career, I have never seen a campus embrace the need for controlled expenditures to the degree that Centre did, and we are already reaping the benefits,” he says.
Strong financial equilibrium and a careful investment strategy also have allowed the College to regain and exceed its pre-downturn endowment value. This has occurred in part because recent surpluses have been added back into the endowment and into health insurance reserves to hedge costs and increases to premiums.
In addition, Centre has been able to maintain an ambitious level of institutional growth, particularly in terms of a number of recent and current capital projects totaling nearly $100 million.
A $21 million renovation of Young Hall was completed in 2010, adding 40,000 square feet to this facility dedicated to science instruction and research. A year earlier, Centre dedicated the new 50,000-square-foot Campus Center, a $15 million project. Pearl Hall, a $15 million residence hall project and the first such building in Kentucky to earn Gold LEED certification, opened in the fall of 2008. A $25 million renovation of Crounse and Sutcliffe halls was completed in 2005, as was a $3 million renovation of the Norton Center for the Arts. Construction is currently underway on a residential commons, a $15 million project that will add 125 beds to assure the College’s highly residential nature and allow Centre to pursue modest enrollment growth. Cuny’s budgetary model targets a total student population of 1,310 by the 2013-14 academic year. Current enrollment stands at 1,250.
Cuny credits “the quality of the Board” for all this success, adding, “The degree of trust enjoyed with the trustees is second to none.”
J. David Grissom ’60, who served as chairman of Centre’s Board of Trustees for 25 years and is co-founder and chairman of Mayfair Capital, a venture capital firm based in Louisville, credits Cuny for many accomplishments. “I have been a part of the Centre College community since my arrival as a student in 1957, and from the perspective of half a century and more I have seen Centre move from strength to strength,” Grissom says. “While presidential leadership and vision drives this success, the work of the CFO is essential to maintain the needed financial equilibrium that allows growth. John Cuny has been the financial conscience of Centre College for many years, and he will be sorely missed.”
Mark Nunnelly ’80, a managing director at Bain Capital in Boston who chairs the Board’s finance committee and also sits on its investments and planning committees, has been impressed over the years with what he calls the “steady hand” of Cuny. “During his tenure, John Cuny has greatly enhanced Centre’s financial planning and discipline, providing key leadership for the consistent outperformance of our budgets, the strong relative performance of our endowment, and the effective use of our balance sheet,” Nunnelly says. “Collectively, his work has allowed us to accelerate the vision of Centre as a leading national liberal arts college.”
While maintaining financial equilibrium throughout the transition is Cuny’s highest priority, he hopes to write the final chapter of his Centre legacy by further reducing the endowment spend rate, which will occupy him over the next two years.
As he looks forward to retirement, Cuny anticipates that he and wife Barbara will pursue their love of travel, which lately has included both domestic destinations and the occasional cruise. They also hope to spend more time with their children and grandchildren.
A national search for Cuny’s successor will be launched in the fall of 2011, with an anticipated start date of July 1, 2012.