After a nationwide search that attracted nearly 200 candidates, Centre College has appointed Kelly Knetsche to serve as its next Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement. Her first official day will be Aug. 10.
In announcing the news, Centre President Milton Moreland referred to Knetsche as uniquely qualified and highly talented to help lead advancement efforts at Centre.
“Kelly’s long professional affiliation with Davidson College, her alma mater, along with her current role at Lenoir-Rhyne University, have cultivated a deep appreciation for the liberal arts college setting that will contribute greatly to her success here at Centre,” Moreland said.
“In addition to securing tens of millions of dollars in major gifts,” he added, “Kelly also directed a significant capital campaign at Davidson, and she has since transformed fundraising efforts at Lenoir-Rhyne, combining her excellent interpersonal skills and creativity with an appreciation for data and analytics.”
The search was coordinated by David Wick at Spencer Stuart, a leading global executive search and leadership consulting firm, and it included a number of Centre staff, faculty and trustees, along with President Moreland.
Faculty President John Wilson, the H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Mathematics, who has taught at Centre since 1985, was one of the search committee members.
He was impressed with how well Knetsche could explain how to grow Centre’s development efforts to a faculty member who had very little experience with the process.
“Based on work in previous positions, I expect Kelly will do an excellent job developing the talents of the members of the team at Centre,” Wilson observed. “I was very pleased to hear her excitement in working at a place like Centre, where there is a strong emphasis on making a high-quality liberal arts education accessible to a diverse student body.”
Judith Pointer Jia, chair of the humanities division and the H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Art, also served on the search committee.
“I am thrilled about the tremendous energy and vision that I know Kelly will bring to the position,” Jia said. “She is passionate about our mission to make a Centre education widely available, and I am confident that she will lead the development office in cultivating new and lasting relationships with Centre’s alumni, parents and friends.”
Reflecting on her new role at Centre, Knetsche was quick to refer to it as her “dream job.”
“I have long admired Centre’s reputation for academic excellence and its mission to prepare students for lives of learning, leadership and service,” Knetsche said. “I am attracted to Centre’s strong sense of community and commitment to inclusivity, and I look forward to partnering with President Moreland and the Board of Trustees to strengthen Centre’s commitment to making a world-class liberal arts education accessible to the best and brightest students from across the country.”
Knetsche added, “This is indeed a dream job, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve this very special community of Centre faculty, students, alumni, parents and friends.”
A native Californian who has spent her last 25 years in North Carolina, Knetsche served for 11 years in a variety of key fundraising roles at Davidson before moving on to Lenoir-Rhyne in 2017, where she’s worked the last three years.
Knetsche also taught high school English for two years just after graduation from Davidson in 1996, followed by eight years at the global branding agency Addison Whitney.
Her career in fundraising started in 2006, when Knetsche began work as a major gift officer at her alma mater. Within a year, she transitioned to oversee parent programs, an area she directed for six years. Then in 2013, Knetsche was promoted to manage Davidson’s $550 million Game Changers Capital Campaign, overseeing a portfolio of approximately 100 major gift prospects and leadership donors. Additionally, she served as one of the lead fundraisers for the E. Craig Wall, Jr. Academic Center, helping to secure $74 million in new commitments.
In 2017, Knetsche accepted the position of Associate Vice President for Development at Lenoir-Rhyne. Highlights of her tenure there include strengthening overall fundraising efforts, best seen in increasing total annual fundraising commitments from $9.5 to $14.5 million from 2018 to 2019 and increasing overall total fundraising commitments by 40 percent.
While earning her B.A. in English from Davidson, Knetsche was a member of Kappa Delta Pi and the National Education Honor Society. She also studied abroad in 1994 at Cambridge University. Knetsche later pursued professional development through the Duke University Nonprofit Management Program, earning certification in nonprofit management.
In her free time, Knetsche enjoys reading, volunteering, hiking, biking and kayaking, and she looks forward to exploring the vast natural beauty of the Kentucky region.
by Michael Strysick
July 7, 2020