Harmon is the second person to be announced as the chief academic officer of the 24,100-student university. Kent State University’s Dr. Timothy Chandler was named provost in a Feb. 25 announcement, but withdrew from the position on March 17 after a public uproar erupted over a Marxist-tinged research paper he co-wrote came to light.
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on higher education, said he was very pleased with Monday’s announcement.
“He really doesn’t strike me as some whacked-out left winger,” Ehrhart said. “I’ve found him pretty conservative. He’s right at home here.”
KSU President Dr. Dan Papp, who made the final call to appoint Harmon, said he does not expect a backlash this time around.
“I see none whatsoever,” Papp said. “Dr. Harmon’s the right person for this job. During his time as interim provost, he’s proven to be a very, very capable person, and he has an impeccable background and history.”
Harmon, the former dean of KSU’s Coles College of Business, said he’s happy to offer up his research to scrutiny.
“I think if people read what I’ve written, they’re going to be bored, because it’s mostly accounting,” Harmon said. “I don’t know of anything that would create any kind of significant backlash, but we’ll just have to see.”
State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), chair of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, also applauded Harmon’s appointment.
“I think the perspective he brings from the private sector, combined with a first-class academic record, is a very meaningful combination to help guide a university that’s looking to be increasingly impactful in our state,” Setzler said. “I think somebody who’s been successful outside of academia, but has strong academic credentials, provides the kind of dynamic that I think can guide a relevant and a constantly improving university.”
Papp said Harmon is popular among the faculty, a claim verified by KSU political science professor Dr. Kerwin Swint.
“My reaction is it’s an excellent choice,” Swint said. “Ken Harmon’s been doing the job about a year and a half. He works very well with faculty and administration both, and he’s a very capable, very sharp guy. I think he’s got the training necessary to do it. He’s been doing the job, and by all accounts that I’m aware of, been doing a very good job.”
Harmon was selected after a nationwide search that attracted 81 applicants. Harmon will be paid the same salary he earned as interim provost, which is $271,000. By comparison, Chandler was offered a salary of $228,000, while the previous KSU provost, Dr. Lendley Black, earned $189,500.
Papp said the difference in salaries is attributable to Harmon’s business background, a field with a traditionally higher salary bracket.
“He knows the campus extremely well (and) he has proven to be an extremely capable and visionary leader who is able to make hard decisions when they have to be made,” Papp said. “As a visionary leader, he understands the direction that Kennesaw State needs to go, and he and I work extremely well together.”
Harmon said that as provost he will work hard to be engaged with the community.
“I feel like we’re part of Cobb County, we’re part of metro Atlanta,” Harmon said. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we are responsive to the community and that we are always viewed as this wonderful asset right here.”
Harmon came to KSU in 2006 as chair of the Department of Accounting, becoming dean in 2009 and interim provost in July 2010.
Under his watch at KSU, he is particularly proud of the executive Education Division at the Coles College, which provides executive-level, non-degree based leadership training so that, for example, WellStar Health System physicians moving into managerial roles are properly trained for the move. Another point of pride under his watch is KSU’s executive MBA program, which was ranked in the Top 25 by CEO Magazine, as well as establishing partnerships and new programs with India.
Harmon holds a Doctor of Business Administration in accounting, with a minor in computer science, from the University of Tennessee.
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Harmon, 56, and his wife, Mary, live in west Cobb and have three daughters, ages 5, 8 and 23.