Scrambling on Friday to find a replacement to fill in for D. Allan Bromley’s “Science, Technology and Public Policy” lecture course after Bromley died Thursday afternoon, Roman Kuc, the director of educational affairs for the Faculty of Engineering, turned to Bromley’s secretary for help.
It had occurred to Kuc that John de la Mothe, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a former visiting professor of engineering at Yale, would be a good fit. As Kuc asked Bromley’s secretary how to reach de la Mothe, the telephone rang — it was de la Mothe, offering his services to the University.
“While we were talking, Professor de la Mothe called her, so I looked up and said, ‘Thanks, Allan,'” Kuc said. “It was one of those really strange and wonderful moments.”
Bromley’s friend and collaborator, de la Mothe taught Yale’s science and public policy course as a visiting professor from 1997 until 2001. He is set to return to Yale again as a visiting professor to replace Bromley for the remaining eight weeks of this semester, Kuc said. De la Mothe is scheduled to speak at a conference in Baltimore this week and will come to New Haven to begin teaching on Feb. 23, Kuc said, adding that he and Bromley’s students are ironing out scheduling conflicts.
De la Mothe, who could not be reached for comment this weekend, offered on Friday to take over Bromley’s course after learning of his death. Kuc said he expects de la Mothe’s appointment, which already has received tentative approval from Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Provost Andrew Hamilton, to be completed today.
Kuc said he was concerned he would not be able to find a qualified replacement to teach Bromley’s course due to its “very specialized” nature. The course, which is cross-listed in three departments, seemed to be “uniquely suited” for Bromley, a nuclear physicist who had served as the chief science and technology advisor to President George H. W. Bush ’48 from 1989-1993.
“My first reaction was that it was such a specialized course taught by a person really at the forefront of his area, so how could this go on? If this were a standard core course there would be faculty ready to step in and teach the course,” Kuc said. “But since we were in the fifth week of the term there was just too much invested for us to cancel the course.”
Salovey said the University follows what he termed a “tacit” policy in situations when acting professors suddenly leave.
“Our goal is to allow students to pursue their educations in as uninterrupted and inconvenienced way as possible under the circumstances,” Salovey said. “I was impressed at the number of people who, while mourning Professor Bromley’s sudden death … swooped in and tried to take care of the undergraduates in his course.”
Bromley’s course is currently scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. in Dunham Laboratory, which poses some problems for de la Mothe, whose teaching obligations at the University of Ottawa prevent him from teaching at Yale on Tuesdays, Kuc said. He said he is in the process of adjusting the course time with about 13 students who are enrolled in the class. One of the options under discussion is to hold the class once a week for three hours, which is how de la Mothe originally scheduled the class when he taught it four years ago, Kuc said.
But rescheduling the course poses problems for some of the students. Elana Danilenko ’07, one of Bromley’s students, said she thinks her schedule is too tight to accommodate the scheduling changes.
“I scheduled my entire schedule around this [class], so I’m really disappointed because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep taking the course,” Danilenko said.
De la Mothe has taught courses in public policy, engineering and international affairs at Concordia, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale. When Bromley was Yale’s engineering dean, de la Mothe was his choice for teaching the science and public policy lecture course, Kuc said.
“I think his course received such good reviews that Dean Bromley wanted him to come back and teach that course by commuting from the University of Ottawa,” Kuc said.
Even if Danilenko is able to continue with the course, she said Bromley will be missed.
“In a way Professor Bromley was the course, because a lot of the interest was what he did in his life,” she said. “He just knew, in and out, everything there was to know.”
A memorial service will be held for Bromley at Battell Chapel on Saturday at 10 a.m.