Wittenberg picks new finance leader

Springfield school taps Xavier’s Robert Munson as its chief financial officer.

At a time when all of higher education is in flux, President Laurie Joyner said she sees in Robert Munson “a strategic partner to think with me” about how to find a sustainable financial structure for Wittenberg University.

The current vice president of finance at Cincinnati’s Xavier University will become Wittenberg’s chief financial officer Nov. 11, when he takes over as its vice president for finance and administration.

A certified public accountant whose resume includes a stint at business consultant KMPG, Munson has spent 10 years in finance at Xavier after working two years as controller and vice president at Thomas More College, a liberal arts school in Kentucky.

Munson replace Darrell Kitchen, who retired in September after more than 25 years at the school.

“I really wanted somebody who was very strong in the nuts and bolts of finance who could come in and ensure we have the best internal systems … so we could get good information in a timely manner to make data-driven decisions,” Joyner said.

“A big piece of that is making sure we truly understand the cost structure of our enterprise,” Joyner said, an issue she said is a challenge for many colleges and universities.

She said Munson’s resume indicated he had “touched all the bases” in his financial career and that “a number of responsibilities that are part of his portfolio (at Xavier) will be be part of his portfolio at Wittenberg.”

Joyner also called Munson a person of impeccable character and integrity and said, “This might turn out to be my most important hire.”

From his office at Xavier, Munson confessed he had “never been to Wittenberg” before looking at the job and “studied every picture and watched every video I could” on its website.

On his visits, “I was captivated by the beautiful campus,” Munson said, “but I was even more impressed when I met the people who work at Wittenberg and their deep commitment and passion for the university.”

Munson said after he left the business finance world for his first academic post at Thomas More, he took “a huge reduction in salary” and “basically fell in love with higher education.”

For the overwhelming number of faculty and administrators he’s met, he said, “it’s all about the students.”

He said that’s one reason hit it off with Joyner.

“But I saw it in all the people that I talked with,” he added. “Those people cared deeply about the institution.”

Munson said becoming Wittenberg’s chief financial officer represents “a step up for me,” and a Wittenberg press release said he will oversee a broad portfolio of administrative units.

His responsibilities will include “budget and resource planning, investment and portfolio management and campus planning and real estate.

“In addition, Munson will lead Wittenberg’s efforts in audit and compliance, risk management, student account payable and printing and mailing.”

Joyner said two of his key responsibilities will be making Wittenberg more cost efficient and helping it find new sources of income.

Munson mentioned continuing professional education for accountants, attorneys, teachers and others as a possibility.

“We could use our existing faculty,” he said, giving them an additional source of income and “at the same time providing a service to the community.”

Wittenberg has watched its Moody’s financial rating steadily slide over the past decade and will be looking for Munson to help change that. The ratings influence the interest rate the university must pay when it borrows money for building projects, which likely are looming in its future.

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