Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker, an alumnus of the University of North Texas, will return to the Lone Star State in July to become provost and vice president for academic affairs of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Blocker, who has been the music school dean since 1995, announced his resignation earlier this month. He said his new position as SMU’s chief academic officer will give him a broader perspective on higher education.
“It’s a very different kind of opportunity for me, with much broader responsibilities,” Blocker said. “The job at SMU is much like Provost [Andrew] Hamilton’s job here; the various schools and colleges report to the provost.”
While Blocker said he did not have specific projects in mind for his new position, SMU President R. Gerald Turner said Blocker would likely assume an active role in launching a new fund-raising campaign at the university.
“He’ll be in the middle of shaping where endowed chairs and professorships will be targeted,” Turner said. “I think he’s coming at a time in which there’s a lot of enhancement going on at the university.”
Yale President Richard Levin said he would appoint an interim dean for the 2005-06 academic year and will appoint a search committee in a few weeks to find a permanent candidate for the deanship. Levin said Blocker would be missed at the School of Music.
“He was a truly outstanding dean,” Levin said. “He did a superb job with hiring faculty, attracting strong applicants, and was a very successful fund-raiser, and all the renovations to Sprague Hall, Leigh Hall, the planned renovations to Hendrie Hall, are all things he worked hard on both conceptually and in terms of raising the money.”
Blocker is the latest in a series of Yale administrators to be appointed to major posts at other universities, including former Provost Susan Hockfield, who became president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year.
An accomplished pianist who currently is recording three Mozart concerti, Blocker served as the founding dean of the School of Arts and Architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a native of Charleston, S.C., and has served in administrative positions at various universities in the South.
In his tenure at Yale and other universities, Blocker has also served as a professor of business management. At SMU, a private university with nearly 11,000 students and more than 500 faculty members, Blocker will supervise the university’s seven degree-granting schools and oversee faculty appointments.
Turner said Blocker’s successful tenure at Yale was noted by the SMU search committee when they recommended him as a finalist for the provost’s position. Blocker also left a favorable impression administrators, faculty and students during a visit to SMU while he was being considered for the job, Turner said.
“When he came to campus, I think the whole community was very impressed with his demeanor,” Turner said. “He was a great listener, and he certainly understood higher education.”
The same personal qualities that appealed to people at SMU will be missed by colleagues at Yale.
“My reaction is bittersweet,” said Thomas Duffy, the deputy dean of the School of Music. “I wish him well, and this is a real promotion. I regret that my personal friend and mentor will not be around here for me to interact with.”
Blocker said he had not been looking for a position at another university before he was approached by the search committee from SMU. Despite his excitement about the next step in his career, he said he was sad to leave his friends in New Haven.
“I had planned to spend the rest of my life here,” Blocker said. “I’ve been here 10 years, and it’s very difficult to leave a place that you love, and friends and people that you enjoy working with.”
Blocker said he is confident about the future of the music school.
“I’m leaving the school in a very good place,” he said. “It’s a wonderful staff and faculty that pleases me very much.”
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”16189″ ]