Community reacts to news of Brodhead’s departure

Members of the Yale community awoke this morning to find surprising news waiting in their e-mail inboxes: Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, a fixture at the University for nearly 40 years, will leave his alma mater to become the ninth president of Duke University in July 2004.

In dining halls and offices across campus, students and professors expressed their disappointment that Yale’s beloved dean would be changing from a Blue Dog to a Blue Devil.

“He’s Mr. Yale,” Jason Fischer ’06 said. “He’s been here for so long, you just get the feeling he really loves Yale.”

Although Brodhead has served as Yale College Dean for the past 11 years, he has been a member of the Yale community for much longer. He is a Blue-blood through and through — after graduating from Yale College in 1968 and from the Graduate School in 1972, “Dick,” as he is known by colleagues, remained at the University as a professor until his appointment as Yale College Dean in 1993.

At a press conference at Duke University Friday morning, Brodhead accidentally replaced the word “Duke” with “Yale” in prepared remarks, the Associated Press reported.

“You know, I’ve been at Yale so long that I equate the word ‘college’ with the word ‘Yale,'” Brodhead said. “But I’ll be fixing that soon.”

Brodhead led the Committee on Yale College Education in its recent academic review. The committee’s proposed curriculum changes will continue to affect Yale College long after Brodhead leaves for Duke.

“He has left us in a good position,” Yale College Council President Elliott Mogul ’05 said. “I think the academic review will be his legacy.”

Mogul, who was Brodhead’s academic advisee his sophomore year and said he has worked with Brodhead in a number of official and academic capacities. He said even his mother is upset by the news.

“My mom is crying,” Mogul said. “She knows what a great guy he is.”

History professor John Gaddis, who called Brodhead a “great friend,” said that as he walked around campus this morning, he heard students and faculty members of all levels calling Brodhead just that — a friend.

“It’s amazing that someone in such a position of authority over so many years would be regarded as a great friend,” Gaddis said.

Gaddis praised Brodhead for his intelligent, “wise” and “tactful” interactions with faculty members. But Gaddis said the surprise is not that Brodhead has accepted the appointment at Duke, but that, given Brodhead’s esteemed reputation, he did not take such an appointment much sooner.

Students mentioned Brodhead’s much-lauded oratory skills. Since becoming Dean of Yale College, Brodhead has welcomed freshman every year with a speech in Woolsey Hall.

Carolyn Kriss ’06 said she will always remember Brodhead’s speech to the class of 2006, in which he encouraged the entire class to interrupt his speech with unified shouts of “Oh-Six!” at specified times.

“All the speeches will be so boring [now]!” Kriss said.

Those who know Brodhead personally talked about his ability to relate to students and to meld into everyday campus life.

Lori Flores ’05, who was Brodhead’s academic advisee her freshman and sophomore years, said he was never intimidating and always accommodating.

“My first meeting with him was just so comfortable,” she said. “He makes everyone feel like their goals and their contributions are just as important as what he does everyday. Oh my gosh, I’m really going to miss him.”

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