University faculty, staff and students celebrated the beginning of a new chapter in Yale’s academic leadership Tuesday evening after the appointments of two seasoned Yale professors to the posts of Yale College Dean and Yale Graduate School Dean.
At a ceremony in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale President Richard Levin announced that Yale Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey GRD ’86 would take over the role of Richard Brodhead ’68 GRD ’72 as Yale College Dean. History Department Chairman Jon Butler was named the new Graduate School Dean.
Those present at the Beinecke gathering greeted the news with a sustained standing ovation and toasted the new administrators with champagne.
“The enthusiasm of the people assembled this afternoon was real, not just for show,” Yale Center for International and Area Studies Director Gustav Ranis said.
Appointed the Graduate School dean last January, Salovey served as the chair of the Psychology Department for two years before that and has worked at Yale University since receiving his Ph.D. from the Graduate School in 1986. He has been awarded two of Yale’s most coveted teaching prizes.
Professors and students alike praise Salovey as a skilled administrator and as a professor with a rare ability to connect with students.
“Over the years, he’s become known as a legendary teacher,” said Kelly Brownell, Salovey’s colleague in the Psychology Department.
Salovey and Butler served on the Committee for Yale College Education during its academic review, completed last spring.
English professor Amy Hungerford, who worked with Salovey on the academic review, said Salovey is known for his innovative teaching style.
“In the Psychology Department, students face really large lectures,” Hungerford said. “Despite that, [Salovey] has really been able to connect with students.”
Salovey acknowledged during his speech at Beinecke that following in Brodhead’s footsteps would be a difficult task. Brodhead, who will leave Yale in July to become the next president of Duke University, is popular with undergraduates.
But most Yale students expressed approval of Salovey’s appointment. Carly Keidel ’05, who took Salovey’s “Introduction to Psychology” class last year, said she is “disappointed” that Brodhead will be leaving but is excited about the prospect of Salovey as dean.
“He has a wonderful sense of humor,” Keidel said.
Salovey is a recognizable face on campus.
“It’s pretty neat that we have a dean with a Groucho Marx moustache,” Emily Wheelwright ’06 said.
Levin began the search for a new dean of Yale College in December after Brodhead announced his pending departure for Duke. While no students sat on the dean search committee, the Yale College Council fielded student recommendations.
Astronomy professor Charles Bailyn, who was one of the professors the search committee considered for the position, expressed his approval of the decisions.
“This is excellent,” he said. “One of the hallmarks of the President Levin administration has been the choice of superb administrators.”
Butler will be the third Graduate School dean in three academic years, following Salovey and current Yale Provost Susan Hockfield.
“The Grad School has had some truly exceptional deans,” Graduate School Associate Dean Pamela Schirmeister said. “They just can’t keep them, that’s the problem.”
Colleagues of Butler complimented his administrative abilities. Butler has chaired the History Department, Yale’s largest department, since 1998.
Hungerford said she thinks Butler has proven himself a talented leader in a department that uses many teaching assistants and requires much interaction with graduate students.
Butler has long been an ally of President Levin and the University administration, who have refused to recognize the Graduate Employees and Students Organization as a union. GESO members greeted Butler’s appointment with determination.
“I look forward to working with him about the pay and equity issues in the humanities,” GESO chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said.
Butler declined on Tuesday to comment about GESO in detail.
“The issue of unionization is primarily an issue for students, and that’s all I care to say,” Butler said.
Butler will be missed as an undergraduate instructor. Rachel Luberda ’04, who took his “Religion in Modern America” course, praised his infectious enthusiasm.
“I am glad I got to take a class with him,” she said. “It’s unfortunate [younger students] will miss him in the classroom.”