Kerr, Tom


Born in Columbus, Dr. Tom Kerr received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, a master’s from the University of Buffalo and his doctorate from Syracuse University. He got his start at Otterbein as an assistant professor of history in 1963.

In 1971, Kerr was selected from a pool of 117 candidates to become the 18th president of Otterbein, when he was just 37 years old. Although he was young in years, Kerr already possessed a wide range of experience as a scholar, teacher and college administrator.

Known as a “builder of ideas,” Kerr developed innovative programs that established Otterbein as a leader in higher education; programs that other schools would later implement as well. His vision greatly impacted athletics, most notably in 1974 when he spearheaded the project of constructing the Rike Center after the department had outgrown the alumni gymnasium. Fighting through the price of steel, Kerr worked with Hall of Famers Bud Yoest, Moe Agler and Curt Tong to develop the layout.

Active within the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC), Kerr also played a large role when the NCAA started to become more interested in financial aid for athletes. He was instrumental in collaborating with other presidents on financial aid systems as schools were being audited by the league office.

A true friend of the athletic department, Kerr assisted the O-Club in its continued growth and was a routine spectator at events, both home and away. He consistently entertained alumni, donors and other spectators in central box seats during games, but was also never afraid to jump in the student section and help lead cheers.

Kerr retired from higher education in 1984, but not before he had helped grow Otterbein’s endowment from $2.9 to $6.9 million. At a time when many small private colleges were in serious trouble, Kerr left Otterbein with increased enrollment, greater endowment support, new buildings and a number of blossoming programs in place. He remained involved with the school after his presidency, attending events and speaking to alumni on the school’s history.

Referred to as a gentle, thoughtful and kind person, Kerr’s 13-year tenure as president certainly propelled Otterbein, and its athletic department, into the next generation with the tools to create many more success stories.