John Meeske ’74, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources, will step down from his post this summer.
In a Tuesday email to selected members of the Yale community, including students involved with the Dean’s Office, Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry announced Meeske’s retirement. After a career spanning more than 40 years at Yale, Meeske has chosen the voluntary layoff option offered by the University, Gentry said. Meeske — whose responsibilities include overseeing student housing and the renovation of the 12 colleges — told the News that he chose to leave now rather than later to take advantage of the incentives conferred by the voluntary layoff options, which Meeske said makes it more attractive for senior administrators to retire.
“It’s not connected at all to student organizations or difficulties of the job or anything else,” Meeske said. “It’s purely just where I am in my career and what I want to do with my life and that sort of thing.”
In the announcement, Gentry said Meeske’s departure was a major loss to the University, adding that he will be missed.
University President Peter Salovey said Meeske has been supportive of dozens of student organizations.
“Dean Meeske is someone who has given his life to Yale,” Salovey said. “Behind the scenes, he is one of the people that makes Yale College tick.”
Salovey added that he will miss seeing Meeske at Commencement as the Old Campus Marshall who bears the staff that bears the mythic creature called “The Yale.”
Yale College Dean Mary Miller said Meeske’s deep knowledge of Yale has made him an invaluable part of the Dean’s Office.
“No one in the [Yale College Dean’s Office] has deeper knowledge across more fronts, from current officers of a student [organization] to the location of a closet on the Old Campus,” she said. “His gentle but firm guidance has led us through countless commencements, class days and openings of the year.”
Rosalinda Garcia, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Latino Cultural Center, said Meeske has tremendous institutional knowledge and is a valuable resource to have when discussing new issues.
“It’s really hard to think of the Deans Office without him,” Garcia said. “It’s so valuable to have someone in the room who has seen a lot of changes. Losing him is a big loss for our department.”
Meeske is the chair of the Yale College Classroom Committee and the vice chair of the Standing Committee on Undergraduate Organizations.
Meeske said the University has dramatically improved since his time as an undergraduate 44 years ago. The University is doing more for students now, he said.
“I’m seeing Yale become a better and better institution,” Meeske said. “It’s been exciting to be a part of that.”
While Meeske said his exact plans for retirement are not certain, he will travel to Mongolia with his wife, and look for a house in Europe. He is still unsure whether he will stay in New Haven or move elsewhere, he added.
Students interviewed who have worked with Meeske said the associate dean has provided a kind and helpful administrative voice.
While working with Meeske on the planning of Spring Fling, Ethan Karetsky ’14 recalls how he and fellow students gathered in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall to hold a meeting with several other senior administrators. During the meeting, Meeske let the students run the meeting and made them feel as if they were on equal footing with the other officials, Karetsky said.
“That’s a moment I’ll certainly remember,” Karetsky added.
Benjamin Ackerman ’16, chair of the Undergraduate Organizations Committee, said he will miss Meeske’s “can-do positive attitude.” Ackerman, who currently interacts with Meeske on an almost a day-to-day basis either through email, phone conversations or in person, said he has benefited from Meeske’s calm composure.
“Overall, he’s just tremendous … I’d call him a friend,” Ackerman said. “[I am] very happy that he can move on and spend more time with his family.”
Still, Ackerman said Meeske’s departure represents a “loss of an ally” because Meeske has worked hard to help student organizations.
Meeske was also instrumental in the planning phase of every major Freshman College Council event, said Thomas Rosenkranz ’17, a member of the Freshman College Council. Rosenkranz added that Meeske is a “markedly kind and approachable man” who has helped students understand and deal with administrative regulations.
Abhijoy Mitra ’17, another member of the Freshman College Council, said Meeske has always been eager and cheerful to help.
“He always agreed to feature in the promotional videos for events,” Mitra said. “And [he] stole the show every time.”
As an undergraduate at Yale, Meeske was a member of the Alley Cats and the Whiffenpoofs.