When Deputy Provost Charles “Chip” Long retires this June, the Provost’s Office will be losing its resident “mother hen,” an adviser, its librarian, a mentor — and much of its institutional memory.
Long, 72, who came to Yale 44 years ago as an assistant professor of English and became an administrator in 1973, announced his retirement to colleagues in an e-mail last week. After 37 years in the Provost’s Office, Long — one of Yale’s longest-serving administrators, who has served on countless committees and mentored several deans and provosts — will be impossible to replace, colleagues said.
In his e-mail to colleagues, Long said his decision to retire did not come because he no longer enjoyed his job, but because the timing was right.
“This seems to me, even now, a surprising thing to say,” he said of his announcement. “Although I am certainly old enough to retire, I have not really thought of myself as being at the end of my career. I continue to love my job; I was looking forward, as I always do, to next year.”
But with the Provost’s Office “in good shape and in good hands,” he added, this year was a good time to leave.
Long is on vacation in Florida and could not be reached for comment. (Fishing and traveling are two activities he wishes he had more time for, he said in a recent interview.)
Long is currently responsible for most of the social sciences departments of Yale College and the Graduate School, the Schools of Divinity, Law and Management, and Yale’s major academic policies, among other duties. He began sharing some oversight of University units with Deputy Provost for Faculty Development Frances Rosenbluth in September 2009, when Provost Peter Salovey reorganized the Provost’s Office.
Knowing that Long would eventually retire, Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said, it made sense to train Rosenbluth to handle most of Long’s duties this year.
Rosenbluth will likely keep responsibility for the social sciences departments and professional schools she and Long share this year, Suttle said, while the rest of Long’s portfolio will be divided among other provosts within the next few weeks. The office does not plan to hire another deputy provost — not that Long could be replaced, added Suttle, one of Long’s closest friends at Yale, who has worked alongside Long since the late 1970s.
“No one, even Chip, knew exactly when it was going to happen, but we knew it would be this year, next year or the year after,” Suttle said Monday. “That was sort of the timeframe we were all anticipating and dreading.”
When Long arrived at Yale in 1966 from the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a Ph.D. in English literature, to teach English, Suttle was a sophomore at Yale. The two first worked together when Suttle directed the Office of Institutional Research and Long, then an administrative dean of Yale College, oversaw the College’s budget.
Suttle took over as administrative dean when Long moved to the Provost’s Office in 1983, then followed Long to Warner House when Long became deputy provost in 1987.
In his 44 years at Yale, Long has served under six provosts and four presidents and mentored several of Yale’s leaders, including not only Salovey and University President Richard Levin but also former Dean of Yale College Richard Brodhead and former provosts Judith Rodin, Alison Richard, Susan Hockfield, Andrew Hamilton and Kim Bottomly, all of whom have gone on to lead their own institutions.
“I once said that Chip is the dean of the Yale school of academic leadership,” Suttle said. “He’s trained the presidents of seven institutions now.”
By virtue of his long career at Yale, Long has also become the repository of much of Yale’s institutional knowledge, something Long acknowledged when he told colleagues he plans to use some of his newfound time off to finish a report on the history and rationale behind some of Yale’s major academic policies.
“In this way I hope to record some of the wisdom passed on to me by the many great deans and provosts I have had the privilege to learn from and imitate,” Long said, quipping, “The serious history and the whimsical novel I have often threatened to write about Yale will take longer.”
But Long’s personal knowledge of academic policies, especially faculty development, is unparalleled, Suttle said, explaining that Long provides not only wisdom and guidance but an understanding of the history and context of Yale’s inner workings. Although most of the same information can be found in archives of committee reports and other paperwork, only Long can tell the difference between two similar-sounding committees from the 1970s and, what is more, remember the exact locations of their documentation in the provosts’ filing cabinets, Suttle said.
So although Long told colleagues he will learn to enjoy the freedom of retirement, he said he plans to remain available to them by e-mail and the occasional appointment. Suttle said he hopes to set up weekly lunches with his friend and former colleague to ask questions and consult with Long on major decisions.
But more than the loss of an experienced administrator, Long’s colleagues will miss the man who served as a “mother hen” for the Provost’s Office, Suttle said. People usually turn to Long when a colleague dies or retires, or when the office is facing other difficulties, he added.
“He’s been our emotional anchor in the Provost’s Office for so many years,” Suttle said. “When everybody around you is losing their heads, Chip will bring us all back to reality and say, ‘Look, we’ve been through this before.’ ”