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Stanford Report, January 19, 2000

Robert Kinnally wins admission; will leave Farm for seminary


Robert Kinnally, dean of admission and financial aid, announced to members of the campus community over the weekend that he will leave Stanford in July to study to become a Catholic priest.

Kinnally, 39, said he had "quite a range of emotions" about leaving the Farm and heading to Stamford, Conn., where he will attend St. John Fisher Seminary with the aim of serving as a priest in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

"My vocation to the priesthood has been with me for a very long time, but it was during my few years at Stanford that I was able to discern that call and make the decision to act on it," said Kinnally, who has been an active member of the campus' Catholic community. He has been a member of the community's chapel choir and an accompanist for the choir.

"Bob Kinnally has dealt forcefully and creatively with the challenges of his office, and the university is in a better position as a result," said President Gerhard Casper. "Faculty and students alike will miss Bob and the many talents he brought to the job. Our best wishes accompany him as he pursues a very different mission."

Kinnally was appointed dean of admission and financial aid in September 1997, succeeding Jim Montoya, who was promoted to vice provost for student affairs.

Montoya said Kinnally's "extraordinarily thoughtful leadership has been a tremendous asset to the university."

He said Kinnally and his staff "have consistently raised and tackled cutting-edge issues related to admission and financial aid policies and practices." He noted that the application review process has been overhauled to place a higher value on intellectual vitality, and that the financial aid program has been refined and enriched to make Stanford more affordable. In addition, the participation of alumni in the university's effort to recruit the best and brightest students has been expanded.

"Although Bob's tenure as dean has been relatively short, he leaves a legacy that will have significant impact on Stanford for years to come," Montoya said.

Provost John Hennessy will ask the Faculty Senate's Committee on Committees to make recommendations for appointees to a committee that will search for Kinnally's successor. The panel will be co-chaired by Montoya and a faculty member.

Before coming to Stanford, Kinnally was dean of admissions at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. He also served in the admissions offices of the University of Bridgeport; the State University of New York, College at Purchase; and Pace University.

"This has been the most rewarding time of my career," he said, citing the university's "strong leadership and its students, who never cease to amaze me with their talent and energy."

He also said that Stanford simply -- but importantly -- "is a community of nice people. And I believe that Stanford students are the happiest students I've ever experienced in 20 years in higher education."

Kinnally's tenure came during a period of heightened interest in Stanford that resulted in a record 18,888 applicants in 1998. In addition, the qualifications of applicants have grown, making for even tougher decisions for the admission staff.

While having to deny admission to more and more applicants, Kinnally said his office has worked to let high school students and guidance counselors know more about Stanford's selection process, "so they know what it means to be highly selective."

And partly in response to feedback from guidance counselors, during Kinnally's watch Stanford consolidated its Early Decision application process.

Kinnally said the biggest challenge for admissions in the future "is navigating in an environment in which high school students are being taught to strategize, and the [application] process is becoming less honest." He noted in particular the "proliferation of services available to 'make [applicants] look attractive.' Making admission decisions in that environment is difficult because you don't know who to believe anymore."

Kinnally announced his upcoming resignation at the Catholic community's 4:30 p.m. Mass on Sunday and thanked the community for giving him insight and freedom that helped him reach the decision to study to become a priest, said Father Patrick LaBelle.

"I think that's a tribute to the whole community," said LaBelle, Stanford's Catholic pastor.

LaBelle praised Kinnally for his service to the campus community and said he will be a wonderful priest.

"He has all of the right qualities. He's a person of compassion, he's bright and witty, and very understanding and cooperative. He knows how to work in a community leadership position and is quite comfortable assuming responsibility, and he has organizational skills," LaBelle said. SR