After 20 years at Southwestern College, Ronnie Jenkins, director of major gifts, will retire during the summer. Jenkins was honored at Founders Day activities at the college during April.
A 1963 graduate of Arkansas City High School and a 1967 graduate of Baylor University, Jenkins began his career at Southwestern Jan. 1, 1993. Before that he had worked for his father and the family business, Jenkins and Sons Production Inc., in Arkansas City. He was also a city commissioner for three years in Arkansas City and mayor in 1979.
Through the years, Jenkins has been in charge of establishing relationships and seeking donations for the college. His territory of responsibility included the western third of the United States stretching from Arizona to Washington.
“My title is a bit misleading,” Jenkins says. “Every gift is a major gift, whether $5, $50, or $500,000.”
The campus and the landscape of the college look much different today than they did in 1993 and of this change has come about largely through Jenkins’s efforts. He is proud of many of Southwestern’s improvements (Jantz Stadium construction, Stewart Field House and Deets Library renovations) but two achievements are especially close to his heart: the Mazie Barnett Kilmer Endowed Chair for Strings and the Richardson Performing Arts Center.
“When I first came to Southwestern, Richardson Auditorium was what I wanted to change,” Jenkins says. “For years there was no interest in redoing the auditorium. When the decision was made to renovate, though, I couldn’t imagine the results would be as spectacular as they are. To turn what was basically a barn into a facility that is so acoustically wonderful is remarkable.”
Southwestern College Dick Merriman is thankful for the work Jenkins has done through the years.
“Ronnie has been an effective ambassador for the college and has been a very skillful advocate in seeking financial support for Southwestern,” Merriman says. “He has helped our donors help Southwestern achieve great things, particularly in the performing arts, and I’m very grateful for his service.”
When asked what he will miss most, people were first and foremost on his list.
“I like the people I work with,” Jenkins says. “I will miss the annual trips to see donors who have become friends. I will miss the people. The physical being of the college is one thing but the real deal is the people who support it and have been here and have feelings for it. There is a real sense that people are pleased with the direction the college is going. People want to be a part of a winning team and a winning team is easier to support.”
Jenkins is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Anita Judd-Jenkins, and being able to simply stay home.
“It’s been an incredible experience for me to get to be here and get to know the college like I have. I think it is a real treasure. In the pantheon of private colleges in the state of Kansas, Southwestern is probably in the best position it has ever been. It is a result of not only our office but the administration, our communications that go out and our admissions team. I feel a bit like Jerry Seinfeld and his television show. When he got to the top of the ratings he said, ‘It’s not going to get any better than this for me.’”