Transitions and Transformations

This summer’s physical renovation of the quad added new sidewalks, trees and shrubs designed to complement our two newest buildings. However, that transformation is not the only change that occurred at St. Thomas. More importantly, but less noticeably, we experienced many faculty and staff transitions within the College of Arts and Sciences. After five years of lasting contributions as dean, Marisa Kelly left St. Thomas to become provost at Ithaca College. Following 21 years of service, initially in the Department of Economics and more recently as associate dean, I was asked to serve as interim dean for this academic year while we conduct a national search for our next dean.

This summer we also saw the retirement of nine faculty members: Mary Anne Chalkley (Psychology), Winston Chrislock (History), Joseph Fitzharris (History), John Kemper (Mathematics), Joseph Komar (Computer and Information Sciences), Thomas Redshaw (English), Kurt Scholz (Mathematics), Thomas Sturm (Computer and Information Sciences) and Thomas Sullivan (Philosophy). We wish them fulfillment in their retirements. Tragically, we also mourned the deaths of two veteran faculty members from the Department of Health and Human Performance. Daniel Carey served his students, both in the classroom and in his Exercise Physiology laboratory, for 23 productive years. John Rohwer came to St. Thomas more recently, but made lasting contributions as department chair.

One might question how the College will weather the loss of 11 influential faculty members and a dean who offered 375 combined years of service to St. Thomas. However, as special as these colleagues were, the College copes with this issue to a greater or lesser extent every year. Hiring new individuals is one way to deal with the loss of faculty. This fall we welcomed 14 new CAS faculty colleagues. Searches are in progress for 23 new and replacement faculty positions. It will be years before these new hires are in a position to make the same level of contributions as the faculty we have lost. Until then, we will continue to rely on the talent of the 228 returning members of the faculty, with their combined 3,050 years of service, to carry the College forward.

Every year these faculty members make important changes to the education we offer our students. Just as students from 15 years ago are unlikely to recognize the transformed quad, they are equally unlikely to recognize the courses they took. Our professors continually update the content of their courses to reflect their changing disciplines and re-think their teaching methods to match our changing students. While 2011-2012 is a year of transition, based on my observation it is the 22nd consecutive year of transition for the College of Arts and Sciences. I remain confident in our ability to educate morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.

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