Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Exit Interview: CFAO Larry McKinnon Retires

Larry McKinnon
Photograph by Douglas Fraser.

Larry McKinnon retired in February after serving as Thayer’s chief financial and administrative officer for 29 years. During that time he oversaw a major accomplishment: 23 consecutive years of balanced budgets—though, as he puts it, “I’m here 29 years, and we’ve only had 23 consecutive years of balanced budgets—oh, shame on me.”

We asked McKinnon, who plans to spend his retirement in Massachusetts playing with his grandchildren, about his work at Thayer.

How did you achieve 23 consecutive years of balanced budgets?
During the ’90s we worked really hard at diversifying our revenue streams and building up our reserves. When the great recession hit, we stayed in the black because our investment endowment income only represented 12 percent of our operations, enrollments were strong, and our Annual Fund was strong. Even with federal dollars tightening up, we have a diverse portfolio of sponsors that support our faculty: NIH, defense, NASA, commerce, energy, and other government departments, and state foundations. We’re in a strong position for Thayer’s expansion.

What’s been the most challenging part of overseeing the budget of Thayer?
It’s staying on top of the finances. My wife would laugh at me, “Oh, you’re talking about 2019 already?” You have to be constant. I’m reading The Wall Street Journal all the time, I’m reading the federal budget and watching the economy. You have to stay on top of the environment that’s going to affect your operations. That was really instilled in me by Hutch [Dean Emeritus Charles Hutchinson] and Jake [Overseer Emeritus John Krehbiel Jr.] at the beginning of my time at Thayer. We took the approach that if we see a problem coming, let’s deal with it now.

We want to keep our faculty competitive. We want to keep our financial aid competitive, attracting good students. There are so many details. It’s all challenging.

Categories: The Great Hall, Exit Interview

Tags: leadership

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