Sean M. Decatur, PhD

President, Kenyon College

Sean M. Decatur, PhD, became the 19th president of Kenyon College in 2013. Prior to that, he served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin College. He was also a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Oberlin.

Dr. Decatur earned a bachelor’s degree at Swarthmore College and earned a doctorate in biophysical chemistry at Stanford University in 1995; his dissertation was titled “Novel Approaches to Probing Structure-Function Relationships in Myoglobin.”

Dr. Decatur was an assistant professor of chemistry at Mount Holyoke College, also serving as department chair from 2001-04. While there, he was appointed the Marilyn Dawson Sarles Professor of Life Sciences and was also an associate dean of faculty for science from 2005-08. On the faculty at Mount Holyoke, Dr. Decatur helped establish a top research program in biophysical chemistry. He also developed unique courses, including a race-and-science lecture series; a course exploring ethical, social, and political questions related to scientific topics; and a team-taught course that integrates introductory biology and chemistry. Dr. Decatur was a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004-05.

Dr. Decatur has won research grants from the federal National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health and from private foundations including the Alzheimer’s Association, Dreyfus Foundation, and Research Corporation for Science Advancement. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and has received a number of national awards for his scholarship, including a National Science Foundation CAREER award in 1999 and a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award in 2003. He was named an Emerging Scholar of 2007 by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine.

He has contributed to the New York Times Room for Debate commentary forum. Dr. Decatur also wrote an essay called “When the Number 9 Bus Was Like Home, and Downtown Was My Playground,” which was included in the 2012 book Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology.

In addition to his work with the KnowledgeWorks Board, Dr. Decatur serves on boards for Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums, Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Philander Chase Conservancy and the Gund Gallery.