Brenzel named TD master

After University President Richard Levin announced Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel’s ’75 appointment as the new master of Timothy Dwight College on Sunday, outgoing Master Robert F. Thompson welcomed Brenzel and his wife with a special rap:

“The man who picks who gets into Yale / Now joyfully follow, their TD trail,” rhymed the famously funky “Master T,” who will retire from the role after 32 years. Brenzel will take over July 1.

Brenzel speaks at the announcement in the TD dining hall Sunday evening.
Brenzel speaks at the announcement in the TD dining hall Sunday evening.

At the same time, Levin extended Brenzel’s deanship of the admissions office, which was set to expire this summer, for another five years. He added that the admissions staff will expand slightly to help Brenzel balance his new responsibilities.

“Jeff is one of the best managers in the University, and really capable of allocating his time efficiently,” Levin said. “He has exceptional judgment about people, and I think he will be a great source of advice and counsel for the students.”

Levin said he is confident Brenzel will be able to balance his two roles, especially since the worst crunch of the admissions season comes over spring break, when most students are not on campus.

Brenzel is the second college master to be named this spring; Penelope Laurans, former associate dean of Yale College, special assistant to the president and lecturer in the English Department, was named master of Jonathan Edwards College in March. Though all of Levin’s previous master appointments have been tenured faculty members, both Laurans and Brenzel are administrators. Levin said this is not a growing trend, but rather a coincidence: Both Laurans and Brenzel have been affiliated with their respective colleges for more than 30 years, and seemed like the best choice for the job, Levin said.

“On the whole, I generally appoint senior faculty members,” Levin said. “That’s been true of all my other master appointments, and I expect it will resume in the future.”

A previous dean of admissions has also served as a college master: Worth David was master of Branford College after running the admissions office from 1972 to 1992.

Brenzel, who was in Timothy Dwight as an undergraduate and has lived there as a resident fellow since last May, received a phone call from Levin three weeks ago, asking him to assume a new role in the college community. Brenzel said he spent considerable time discussing with his wife whether to take the position, and both concluded that while the role will be very “demanding,” there is “no better way to spend the next five years.”

In order to juggle his dual role as master and dean of undergraduate admissions, Brenzel said he will delegate some responsibilities to senior members of his staff. Having already served five years as dean of admissions, he said he has gained enough familiarity with the college admissions process to allow him to handle the additional role of college master.

“I take comfort in the fact that other senior faculty members have retained their full course loads and research after becoming master,” he said, “I also have some outstanding senior staff in the admissions office who will be able to step up to additional responsibilities.”

Brenzel added that taking on the role of master will allow him to develop long-term relationships with the students he has admitted — a rare opportunity and one that he said may change his perspective on the admissions process. While Brenzel has met with Thompson to discuss his new responsibilities, he and TD Dean John Loge have yet to decide how they will share the responsibility of running the college. Brenzel noted that while adjustments will be made to accommodate his duties at the admissions office, he does not anticipate any “radical” changes.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Margit Dahl said the admissions office staff is capable and experienced and has been asking Brenzel to delegate more of his responsibilities for years.

“He’s a bit of a workaholic, so this will encourage him to do what he should have done anyway,” she said. “We have a lot of people who will easily step up to the plate and take what he hands off.”

Dahl said Brenzel is particularly committed to aiding the transitions of first-generation college students or students from underprivileged backgrounds. Brenzel himself was the first member of his family to graduate from college.

Of the 16 students in Timothy Dwight College interviewed Sunday night, all said they are excited about Brenzel’s appointment. Mary Attardo ’11 said Brenzel served as her adviser during her freshman and sophomore years and once even bought her Thai food during a scheduled meeting.

Josh Pan ’12, another of Brenzel’s advisees, said Brenzel always has time to meet with him, even during the peak of the admissions season, and gives wise advice. Another student, Teresa Mbagaya ’10, said Brenzel has helped her through problems ranging from family matters to career goals.

Devin Smith ’12 said Brenzel is already a presence in TD, and “dominates” the rowing machine in the college gym.

At the end of this semester, Thompson said, he plans to take a sabbatical year to complete his book “Staccato Incandescence: Mambo in Art History” and begin another, still unnamed book.

Correction: April 26, 2010

An earlier version of this article misrepresented what Teresa Mbagaya ’10 has discussed with Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel. She had discussed a family matter, not a conflict.

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