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Kenly assumes helm of Vail Symposium

October 17, 2022, 7:09 am

The Vail Symposium on Friday issued the following press release on James Kenly taking over as its new executive director:

Following the announcement of Kris Sabel’s retirement as Executive Director at Vail Symposium at the end of 2022, Chairman Dale Mosier announced today that James Kenly will be taking the reins of the venerable non-profit in 2023. The organization, which provides thought-provoking, diverse and affordable educational programs for the Vail Valley community, recently celebrated its 50thanniversary.  

“We’re thrilled to have James take the helm as executive director of the Vail Symposium,” Mosier said. “We have known for some time that our current Executive Director, Kris Sabel, would be retiring at the end of the year–the same time his wife, Ruth Johnson, retires from Roundup River Ranch. James is a great choice for the Vail Symposium, both to execute the current role and help set a path to lead the organization to a higher level.”  

Kenly has a diverse background focused on programming and non-profit work. Dedicated to facilitating loyal connections between donors, board members, employees, volunteers, partners, the community and the organization, Kenly said he’s an energetic team player who believes that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.  

Vail Symposium’s executive director wears many hats and Kenly’s experiences reflect his ability to multi-task and excel in a variety of roles. Kenly has 20 years of event production experience as well as Vail Valley fundraising experience including individual giving, corporate philanthropy and sponsorship, and grant writing.  

“It is an honor to serve our community through the Vail Symposium’s important work,” Kenly said. “From its early days as an in-house think tank for the Town of Vail to its 50th anniversary season presenting thought leadership on a wide variety of important topics, this is a unique resource with a rich history. I look forward to working with the board, staff and patrons to inspire robust conversation and critical thinking in our community for many years to come.” 

Prior to accepting the position at Vail Symposium, Kenly was the Director of Individual Giving at Walking Mountains Science Center where he played an integral role in the annual gala, A Taste of Nature, as well as corporate partnerships. From 2017-2020, he served as Director of Operations and then Executive Director at Vail Jazz Foundation. Kenly also cofounded the Denver-based nonprofit organization Love Light & Melody in 2007.  

“Retiring is bittersweet but I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made at the Vail Symposium and I know I’m leaving the organization in good hands,” Sabel said. “Along with James’ strong intellectual curiosity, his previous experience at Vail Jazz and at Walking Mountains gives him the local connectivity that will be so important in taking us to a new level. The future is bright as the Vail Symposium begins the journey for the next 50 years.” 

Kenly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric from Bates College and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Denver. He lives in Eagle-Vail with his family and enjoys supporting the joie de vivre of his 7- and 10-year-old children as they explore everything our wonderful community provides. 

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