Branford College Dean Thomas McDow ’93 announced Wednesday in an e-mail to the Branford community that he will be stepping down at the end of the semester after a four-year stint as dean.

McDow, a lecturer in the History Department, said he has accepted a tenure-track position in history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he will begin teaching in January 2008. McDow and his family will remain in New Haven next fall as his wife, Alison, finishes medical school and completes her M.D./Ph.D.

“I became dean four years ago with a strong belief in Yale’s residential college system and the opportunities it provides for working closely with students on so many issues,” McDow said in his e-mail. “Little did I know how rich and rewarding it would be, how much I would learn from all of you, and how much fun it would be to be to share a neo-Gothic castle with 450 people.”

In his e-mail, McDow said he has enjoyed returning to residential college life in a different role and with a different set of responsibilities.

“Most Yalies only have one four-year stint as the member of a residential college community, and I feel blessed with two,” he said. “Both Franklin and Solomon were born while we’ve lived in Branford, and Maggie learned to ride a bicycle in the Great Courtyard and figured out how to read with the bells of Harkness Tower in her ear.”

Branford College Master Steven Smith said he is grateful for McDow’s four years of work attending to the numerous needs of the college’s students.

“We will miss him a lot,” Smith said. “He has done a great job in every respect and has been very active in every dimension of the college. He will be hard to replace.”

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey will assemble a committee including Smith, Branford students and fellows of the college to search for a replacement for McDow, Smith said. The new dean will likely be named over the summer.

Branford student Sam Ng ’09 said he found McDow accessible and helpful in addressing scheduling and other academic questions. McDow often sends e-mails to the Branford community in poem form, Ng said.

“He has three kids, so he’s very fatherly and seems to be very on top of things,” Ng said. “I think he wants to be that young, hip dean who is kind of with it and in it and all that.”

Jay Leybourn ’07 said he thinks McDow has done an impressive job of getting to know all of the Branford students individually, both through his formal duties and around the college. During his freshman year, Leybourn said, he missed part of orientation because he plays football. McDow helped catch him up on what he needed to know to get oriented to life at Yale, Leybourn said.

“He was unique in that he really took an interest to get to know me,” Leybourn said. “If I told him about an event or something on campus, then he would come. He was really involved.”