Jody Spooner ’91 will be the next dean of Jonathan Edwards College, JE Master Penelope Laurans announced Sunday night.
Spooner will succeed JE Dean Conor Frailey, who has served as the interim dean since Kyle Farley stepped down from the position in December. At a ceremony at Sunday night’s dinner, Laurans said Dean Mary Miller and the search committee chose Spooner not only for his extensive teaching and administrative experience, but also for his enthusiasm and ability to connect with students.
“JE has a tradition of exceptionally fine and influential deans,” said Laurans. “I think we are continuing that tradition today.”
After starting college at Florida State University, Spooner transferred to Yale and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1991. Since earning his master’s in American Studies at Florida State, he has held teaching and administrative positions at Chipola College, Florida State, Williams College and the University of Edinburgh, where he is currently studying for a doctorate.
“I care very deeply about what I do, and really do believe my entire life has been working towards this moment,” Spooner said. “I look forward to getting to know you and making some small, or hopefully large, contribution to your lives.”
Laurans described how the committee was impressed by the “specificity” of Spooner’s cover letter and the way he “energized the room through the video screen” during his interview, which was conducted over Skype.
“When we hung up there was a silent pause, and one of the students said ‘Wow, he nailed that interview,’” Laurans said.
During his time at Yale, Spooner enrolled in one of Laurans’ classes. Spooner’s upward academic trajectory in the class “arrested” Laurans, who said that his improvement in her course “is what we hope for from Yale students.”
Laurans teased Spooner for his role as Branford’s intramural secretary during his senior year. Spooner assured the students that Branford was “a part of [his] past,” and that he expected JE students to help him “rehabilitate [his] life” as a born-again Spider.
As a first generation college student from a small farm, Spooner said that Yale was a “very difficult place” for him when he was a student, and he appreciated the guidance his own dean provided.
“A dean came into my life senior year and changed the way I thought about Yale,” he said. “That’s the reason why I’ve spent most of my career mentoring students and helping them synthesize their personal lives and professional aspirations.”
Laurans concluded the presentation by thanking Frailey for his “amazing” work as interim dean, and commended him for his IM soccer skills and ability to learn names so quickly.
Students interviewed said they appreciated Spooner’s candid speech and think he is a good choice for the position of dean, calling him “down-to-earth.”
Jacob Viola ’13 said he met Spooner Sunday morning at a gathering for future JE Freshman Counselors, but was told not to tell anyone who the new dean was until the announcement had been made.
“I had a hard time staying quiet about it for the rest of the day,” Viola said. “I wanted to share how great he was.”
Also a first-generation college student, Viola said he found Spooner’s story “inspiring” and “powerful.” He also praised Spooner for his sense of humor and “Southern charm.”
Spooner will be moving into the Dean’s Suite this summer, Miller said.
CLARIFICATION: April 30, 2012
An earlier version of this article stated that Laurans teased Spooner for his initially poor writing in her course. Laurans commented on Spooner’s upward academic trajectory, not his writing. Spooner later said he was a “terrible writer” in Laurans’ course.