GREENVILLE, S.C.—Furman University President Rod Smolla will step down from his position June 30, 2013 for personal reasons, Board of Trustees chairman Richard Cullen announced today.
The board has elected Carl Kohrt, Ph.D., a graduate of the Furman Class of 1965 with strong ties to the university, to serve as interim president, Cullen said.
“I have enjoyed my tenure at Furman, which is truly one of the gems in American higher education, and I am confident that the institution will continue to grow in influence and reputation,” Smolla said. “The decision to resign was reached only after long and thoughtful deliberation, and in the end I felt that the needs of my family must be first among my priorities.”
“In what has been a challenging era for higher education, Rod Smolla has provided boldness and innovation for one of the nation’s leading liberal arts universities,” Cullen said. “Furman has been catalyzed by his energy and commitment, and there is momentum going forward. We understand and empathize with his decision, and we are grateful for his dedicated service.”
Cullen has asked trustee Robert Hill, Class of 1983, to chair a search committee for the next president. Hill is president and chief executive officer of Acosta Sales and Marketing Co. in Jacksonville, Fla. The search committee membership will be announced in the coming days, Cullen said.
“Carl Kohrt was the immediate and unanimous choice of the board to serve as interim president,” Cullen said. “He is a strong leader and a really bright guy, with great academic credentials and an exemplary record of business leadership. We’ll be in good hands.”
Smolla was appointed Furman’s 11th president in July 2010, and led an activist administration that steered Furman’s growth in a number of new directions. Applications for admission increased by 30 percent during his tenure, and he pioneered a more holistic approach to determining admissibility, one that placed greater emphasis on qualities such as leadership, service, resilience, persistence, and drive. During his tenure, the enrollment of freshman minority students doubled and freshman international students grew from one student to 29.
The comprehensive “Because Furman Matters” capital campaign recorded nearly $100 million in gifts and commitments since 2010 and now stands at $382 million toward its $400 million goal. Smolla was instrumental in securing a $5 million pledge, one of the largest individual commitments in Furman’s history, and numerous other transformative financial commitments for scholarships, academic resources, community initiatives and athletics. Under his leadership, significant endowment funds have been raised for The Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics and Public Leadership, the Study Away program, Bridges to a Brighter Future, and the new Herring Center for Continuing Education was constructed.
Smolla also renewed Furman’s historic commitment to intercollegiate athletics, adding men’s and women’s lacrosse and bringing to 20 the number of team sports for student-athletes. Several new coaches have been hired, and select renovation and new construction for competition and practice facilities are underway, all funded with private donations.
Smolla has championed a more prominent role for Furman in South Carolina. In 2011 he was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to serve on the state’s Commission on Higher Education and he has led Furman partnerships with the Upcountry History Museum, the Poinsett Corridor project, and with some of Greenville’s leading visual and performing arts organizations through the “Partners in the Arts” initiative.
Dr. Kohrt, a native of Illinois, attended Furman on a football scholarship, playing both football and basketball his freshman year. He graduated magna cum laude in 1965 with a B.S. in chemistry and was among the first group of Furman students to formally engage in undergraduate research with faculty, a distinctive quality of the Furman undergraduate experience that continues today. He earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1971, and served as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Post-doctoral Fellow to the James Frank Institute that same year. He earned a Master of Science degree in Management Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991.
Dr. Kohrt’s distinguished academic career included service as a NSF Graduate Fellow and Post-doctoral Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow (honorary) and a Sloan Fellow. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and the recipient of two honorary degrees. He has co-authored scientific research papers and is the named inventor or co-inventor on several patents.
Dr. Kohrt also enjoyed a successful business career. He spent 29 years with Eastman Kodak Company, where he began as a bench scientist and retired as the executive vice president and chief technical officer. He was variously responsible for research laboratories on four continents, led the global medical imaging business (x-ray, mammography, and dental), served as the assistant chief operating officer, and lived for several years in China along with his wife, Lynne, while building the largest imaging business in Greater Asia.
From 2001 to 2008, Dr. Kohrt served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Battelle Memorial Institute, one of the world’s largest, non-profit research and development corporations known for its many commercial innovations in the materials, energy, medical, and defense industries. In addition, Battelle partners with major research universities to manage or co-manage several national research laboratories on behalf of the Department of Energy, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, as well as those for other governments. Kohrt has served as chair or co-chair of the Boards of Directors of four of these National Laboratories.
Under his leadership and consistent with its founding mission, Battelle began a significant investment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, co-founding with the Ohio State University a multi-state network of public math and science college preparatory high schools as well as forming a nationally recognized teacher education and assessment company, Battelle for Kids, for which Kohrt served as founding chairman.
He retired from Battelle in 2008 and currently serves as the lead director for Scotts MiracleGro Company. He is a member and former chair of the Furman Board of Trustees, and is a director of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
Carl and his wife of more than 50 years, Lynne (McCartney), a 1969 graduate of the University of Illinois, have been childhood friends since grade school, and are the parents of three sons, one of whom is a Paladin and former co-captain of the soccer team (Kris ’84), and grandparents of 10. They returned to upstate South Carolina in 2000 and have been full-time residents on Lake Keowee since 2009. In addition to their life-long love for the outdoors, they are avid supporters of the performing arts.
For more information, contact Furman’s News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.