When Deputy Provost Charles “Chip” Long retires in June, the Provost’s Office will lose its resident “mother hen,” “chief of staff,” adviser, librarian and mentor — and Yale will lose 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 and friends 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 a string of deans, provosts and presidents — will be impossible to replace, colleagues said.
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And not just in the sense of his individual expertise: As the University has changed the way it operates, a role like the one Long played may cease to exist. As some colleagues suggested, there will never be another Chip.
In his e-mail to colleagues, Long said he did not decide to retire because he no longer enjoys his job, but because the timing seems right.
“This seems to me, even now, a surprising thing to say,” he said in the e-mail 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 is a good time to leave. With more free time, Long, an avid fisherman, is looking forward to spending more time fishing and traveling, colleagues said.
Long is on vacation in Florida and could not be reached for comment.
Long is currently responsible for budgeting, faculty development and overall academic policy in most of the social sciences departments of Yale College and the Graduate School, as well as the schools of Divinity, Law and Management. He also works on the faculty handbook and identifies areas of the University that need donations, 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, Salovey said, it made sense to train Rosenbluth to handle most of Long’s duties this year.
Rosenbluth, who said she was privileged to have “apprenticed” with Long, will keep responsibility for most of the social sciences programs and professional schools she and Long share this year, Salovey 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, said Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle, one of Long’s closest friends at Yale, who has worked alongside him for more than 30 years.
“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. “That was sort of the time frame we were all anticipating and dreading.”
‘NOT BAD FOR AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR’
When Long arrived at Yale to teach English in 1966 from the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a doctorate in English literature, Suttle was a sophomore in Yale College. The two first worked together in the late 1970s, 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.”
Despite leaving his English classes behind, Long is an educator at heart, said Deputy Provost for the Arts and Humanities Emily Bakemeier, who came to Yale in 2000 to serve as an assistant provost working with Long. (In a recent interview, after explaining some of the intricacies of Yale’s endowment and investments, Long joked, “Not bad for an English professor, huh?”)
Hamilton, now the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, said he learned from Long to manage seemingly intractable situations with patience, compassion and wisdom. Bottomly, the deputy provost of science and technology until she left to become president of Wellesley College, agreed, saying that no one in the Provost’s Office could match Long at navigating difficult issues.
“I always enjoyed my conversations with Chip, and not only because he was a true old-school gentleman with a constant twinkle in his eye, but because I always learned something valuable,” Bottomly said. “If I had a particularly thorny personnel or policy issue to deal with, Chip was always the man to see.”
‘THAT BRAIN AND THAT HEART’
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 in the e-mail, quipping, “The serious history and the whimsical novel I have often threatened to write about Yale will take longer.”
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. After all, Long has authored or at least contributed to many of Yale’s current policies and practices, Rosenbluth said.
“I think we’ll be sitting in meetings saying ‘Ah, Chip would know that,’ or, ‘If only Chip were here,’ ” said Bakemeier, who called Long one of the top five administrators at Yale in his ability to make the University run smoothly. “There are certain things you can’t transfer to another person, because it’s just the way you gain experience and get to know the place and the people, some of which only he has because of his extraordinary number of years working at Yale.”
Added Bakemeier: “You can always find things in filing cabinets if you look hard enough, but you can’t replace having the information go through that brain and that heart.”
Long’s unparalleled personal knowledge of academic policies, especially faculty development, will be missed, Suttle said, explaining that Long provides not only wisdom and guidance but also an understanding of the history and context of Yale’s workings. In his time as provost, Salovey added, Long has helped him understand not only the history of academic issues on campus but also learn the “nuances” of Yale policies.
In that way, he is one of the few administrators who represents the era when Yale’s administration ran largely on personal touches, said Benjamin Foster, the acting chair of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, whose department was part of Long’s portfolio until last year.
“He now stands out as the kind of administrator that used to be in great numbers and now there are very few of them,” Foster said. “He relies more on intuition and experience than legalisms. Instead of saying we have to do this because of federal regulations or we’ll have to talk to the general counsel’s office, there was a kind of give and take.”
So though Long said he will learn to enjoy the freedom of retirement, he told colleagues 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 passes away 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.’ ”