President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., announced the appointment of Kevin Lawlor ’79 as executive vice president on Wednesday, July 24. Lawlor takes over the role left by Dr. William H. Weitzer, who is now executive director of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.
The executive vice president is responsible for promoting Fairfield to prospective students, leading new financial opportunities and most important, implementing a strategic plan for the university’s future.
As it currently stands, Fairfield’s strategic plan, initially envisioned in 2004 by von Arx, includes “the integration of the core curriculum, the integration of living and learning and the integration of Jesuit values in graduate and professional studies.”
Fr. von Arx said in a university press release that Lawlor’s experience makes him “ideally suited” for the position. Lawlor graduated from Fairfield’s business school with a degree in accounting. He has more than 25 years of experience in corporate America, including a position as vice president and general manager of AAR’s Precision Systems division in Alabama. He received a master’s degree in taxation from the University of New Haven and was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I know that for Mr. Lawlor, the opportunity to serve as [executive vice president] at Fairfield is a challenge that he has embraced with tremendous enthusiasm and purpose, and with a desire to serve his alma mater to the utmost of his ability,” von Arx said.
Lawlor said that the structure of corporations are different than that of universities, but he believes the skills and goals from one can transfer to the other.
His positive experience at Fairfield has motivated him to provide an even better experience for current and future students.
“I am very bullish on Fairfield,” Lawlor said. “It has a big, bright future, professional schools that gain in reputation and prestige each year, dedicated alumni, a low teacher-to-student ratio and a gifted faculty. Central to all this is a diverse, talented, and ambitious student body, who not only care about getting an excellent education but also care about the world in which we live.”
Lawlor has three goals he wishes to meet as the executive vice president and chief operating officer. Speaking on behalf of his newly gained colleagues, Lawlor said: “First, we want to make sure that each successive class has the same or better kind of opportunities that today’s classes have.” To do this, he plans to oversee the strategic plan and make sure it is well-understood and consistent.
“That means identifying and mitigating threats as they become known, and it means tapping into the incredible engine of innovation that already exists on campus,” Lawlor said.
Lawlor also wants Fairfield to unite and be diverse. According to him, each student can contribute his or her story that “paints a compelling picture of the [u]niversity and raises the profile of the Fairfield brand.”
Last, the new executive vice president also hopes to emphasize the importance of higher education, to make sure students know what they will receive upon enrolling at Fairfield.
“… [A]ll universities today need to be responsive in terms of offering a strong value proposition – the era of college costs that escalate at two to three times the prevailing inflation rates is over.
“We need to leverage technology and innovation; we need to be clear about our priorities; and we need to be as efficient as we can be,” Lawlor said.
To achieve such goals, Lawlor will organize a team possessing communication skills, enthusiasm and innovation.
“A very bright guy I used to work with always said, ‘We reserve the right to learn,'” Lawlor noted. “The most successful companies I was associated with captured learning every time they went through a cycle and plowed that back into the process so that the processes got stronger and more efficient each time. It’s at the heart of learning and is as applicable to libraries and registrar’s offices as it is to factories.
“I believe the next ten years will be transformational for both industry and higher education,” Lawlor said. “Those companies and institutions that continually test their paradigms, integrate best practices, and foster innovation will flourish, and the others won’t.”
Aug. 1 will mark Lawlor’s first day at work.