History professor Frank Turner GRD ’71, who has served as interim director of Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library since July, has accepted a full-time appointment to the post for a five-year term, Yale President Richard Levin announced Wednesday.
The University has been looking for a new director for the library since Barbara Shailor stepped down from the job July 1 to accept a position as Yale’s deputy provost for the arts. Turner previously served as Yale’s provost under former Yale President Benno Schmidt.
“We did have applications from a number of excellent candidates but Professor Turner has done such an outstanding job that there was more or less a chorus of support saying that we should invite him to be the permanent director,” Levin said.
Schmidt, who is now the chair of the City University of New York’s board of trustees, praised Turner Wednesday as a “great University citizen” who is a great academic and teacher.
“I think it’s a fine appointment for Yale and very good for the University to get Frank back into an important administrative position,” Schmidt said. “But I hope Frank won’t have to give up his research and teaching, because he’s one of the great scholars of arts and sciences at Yale in any discipline.”
Both Schmidt and Turner left their administrative positions in 1992 after they backed a then-controversial plan that called for cuts in faculty positions to put additional funds into Yale’s physical plant. When Levin assumed the Yale presidency in 1993, he put portions of the plan into effect on a more limited scale.
Turner was traveling Wednesday and was not available for comment.
Levin said Turner understands Beinecke library well because of his years of doing scholarly research in the collection and that Turner has excellent administrative skills from his years as provost. Levin announced the appointment of Turner to the post in an e-mail to the University Wednesday.
“[His appointment] is effective for building bridges between Beinecke and other parts of the University,” Levin said. “He understands the important role played by the staff of the library.”
Yale Provost Susan Hockfield, the University’s chief academic and financial officer, said Beinecke has increasingly become a center of culture at Yale under the previous two directors of the library.
“Professor Turner is a marvelous person to continue that trajectory,” Hockfield said.
Shailor said there are three major ongoing projects for Beinecke’s director. She said the director must work to encourage the use of the library’s resources by students and professors, acquire new items while protecting current assets, and reach out to scholars beyond Yale.
The new director may soon make some progress toward one of those goals. Dean of Yale College Richard Brodhead, who praised the choice of Turner as “a fabulous appointment,” said he spoke with Turner about the possibility of Beinecke library offering a new freshman seminar where students could study the ancient texts in the library. Brodhead said Turner seemed receptive to the idea.
“[Turner is] a person that will be able to open the Beinecke to the fullest participation in the cultural life of this place,” Brodhead said.
Turner, who specializes in English and European intellectual history, won the Yale College Prize for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching in 1981, the first year the prize was awarded. According to the History Department’s Web site, Turner offers graduate seminars in Modern European Intellectual and Cultural History; Science, Society and Politics in the 17th and 18th Centuries and European Thought in the Age of Romanticism.
–Staff Reporters Amy Kaplan and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.