Todd Kilburn, Lewis-Clark State College’s vice president for finance and administration, has lived a fun and interesting life, from years of being a Baptist minister to working in a Manhattan building that had its own zip code and now the financial realm of higher education.
Through it all, he knows you can’t take things too seriously. There is a lot to life, such as how every day can be a new adventure.
This approach to life carries over into, of all things, his tie selection. Kilburn is a fan of loud and fun ties, which he says has a purpose.
“It comes from my days working at Dartmouth,” he said. “While I loved being at an Ivy League school, it was a little formal at times. And I’m a pretty quiet, introverted guy. So I thought if I’m going to wear ties, I want them to have a little pizazz. And I wound up getting more comments about my ties than what you usually get.
“But it’s also a sense for me that I hope when I do feel like I need to wear a tie, I’m a little more approachable. I’m here to help others, but you do have to have some fun.”
Kilburn has been in his position at LCSC since June 2016. He says he loves the college and he and his wife, Ruth, enjoy the area.
“I really like the atmosphere at LCSC,” Kilburn said. “It may be the best working environment I have ever been in. I think people genuinely care about and respect each other. Even when they disagree.
“The other thing I really like is that there is a sense that everything is about the student. I almost never run into anyone who says, ‘We need to do this and it’s about my career or what’s best for me.’ It’s really about how we do the best job for students. And I love that about this place. I love that people really do care about one another. There is a real commitment to making LC a great place.”
In his vice president position, Kilburn oversees several areas at the college, including the financial areas with the controller, budget and financial planning, grants and contracts, and purchasing. He also has other areas including the bookstore, dining services, KinderCollege, the LCSC Tennis Center, security, physical plant, risk management, and human resources.
“I love the variety,” he said. “Every day is different, especially with the scope of the work. I believe we create the context so education can happen. Everything we do is in support of the educational mission on the institution. So it’s not that we are just setting HR policies; we are setting HR policies to help people do the job of education.
“Money is not an end to itself. Buildings are not an end to themselves. It is, for me, all about the people. We can impact people. And I really love that about my job. I love being able to work on something that actually helps impact the work that people do and hopefully impacts the next generation.”
Being able to help impact the lives of students is what drove Kilburn to working in higher education.
“I’m focused on the individual,” he said. “It’s not about the profit or the shareholders. It’s really about the impact on students and impact on people’s lives. I love education, I love learning myself, but I love what education does and how it helps people advance in life. You get to impact in a pretty positive way.
“One of my hopes here at LC is to create an environment where the administrative side is friendly, welcoming, and works in tandem with the rest of the institution. With too many schools, I see a divide where the administration does this without any thought of what the impact will be on the faculty or students. It’s important to me that we create an environment that’s friendly, where people can ask questions, and budget questions can be answered in as positive a way as possible.”
Kilburn has followed an interesting path to LCSC. He was born and raised in Springfield, Mass., and later attended Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary outside of Des Moines, Iowa. He then went back to Springfield and served as an assistant pastor and then senior pastor at his hometown church for 14 years.
He left the ministry for a job with a foundation in Manhattan where he says he worked for a man who was spending his lifetime giving away the family fortune. He worked there for seven years and was in Manhattan when 9/11 took place.
“I didn’t realize that was what I was seeing, but I watched the second plane hit the tower,” he said.
Kilburn said his boss in New York was a Dartmouth alum and talked highly about the place. It intrigued Kilburn so he began to look for jobs at Dartmouth. He found a job with the foundation office for the Tucker Center, which promotes spiritual and ethical life at the college.
“I thought I would really like to get an advanced degree and since I didn’t know much about the financial realm and management, this area would be a good thing to learn,” Kilburn said.
While working at Dartmouth, Kilburn attended Plymouth State University in New Hampshire on nights and weekends and earned his MBA.
A short time later, Kilburn’s boss at Dartmouth was named president of Naropa University in Boulder, Colo. Kilburn followed him and was appointed chief administrative officer at the school. After two years, the president left, and an interim president asked Kilburn to move into the chief financial officer position, also on an interim basis. He then was hired permanently for the position and worked there for six years before he took the job at LCSC.
“I really had it in my mind that I wanted to go to a small, private school because that was my experience,” Kilburn said. “I wasn’t looking at a public institution. But then I saw the advertisement for the vice president of finance in Lewiston, Idaho, and I started looking at the website. I thought it was a public college, but it sure looked like a private one. I knew I had to apply.”
Kilburn knows his career path has been rather unusual.
“I was a Baptist minister, the philanthropist I worked for was a Jewish philanthropist, and then the school I worked for in Boulder was Buddhist inspired,” he said laughing. “I keep saying that isn’t your typical career trajectory. But I have loved every one of the jobs I have had.”
Kilburn said his wife is finishing her Bachelor’s degree in nursing this semester and would like to teach nursing. He said she has a degree in molecular biology and currently teaches genetics courses online for a couple of schools. The couple has one son, Jonathan, who manages a New Jersey martial arts studio that works with children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
Kilburn said he enjoys reading, especially mysteries, traveling with his wife, and recently took up biking again. He is active with a Baptist church in Lewiston and admits to being an avid baseball and sports fan with allegiances to the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. He also loves attending LCSC sporting events and supporting the student-athletes.
“I really love this community and college, and am really appreciative of the welcome I received here,” he said.