In a letter to the Jonathan Edwards College community on Nov. 29, University President Richard Levin announced preparations to begin the search for a new college master, who will assume the position at the beginning of the 2008-’09 academic year.

A 10-member committee, composed of faculty and students, will aid Levin in making a decision as they seek potential candidates to replace current master Gary Haller. After an 11-year term as the master of JE, Haller said he wants time off for an academic leave to pursue scientific endeavors.

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“I still have an active laboratory,” Haller said. “I am anticipating a scholarly push for the next eight to 10 years on work on capstone-ing my research.”

A professor of engineering & applied science and chemistry, Haller is conducting research pertaining to catalytic processes.

“He’s got to still play scientist,” Haller’s wife and Associate Master Sondra Haller said.

She said she is looking forward to retreating to the couple’s home in Hamden, going back to being a grandmother and having time to reconnect with her family.

“It’s part of our life that had slipped away,” she said.

Although Levin typically appoints masters to terms of five years, Haller said an extra year was added after he served two terms so that he could oversee the 2007-’08 renovation of the college.

But when his term is finished, Haller said he will be prepared to allow a new master to take the reins right away.

“It’s inappropriate to stay around too much,” he said. “The new master will want to put their stamp on the college.”

Although Levin has the final say in the choice for any college master, the selection committee will assist him by compiling a shortlist of possible candidates. Although Levin has overseen the appointment of 15 masters during his tenure, he said he will not take the advice of the committee lightly.

The search committee will be headed by Physics Department Chair Meg Urry. The committee also includes three members of the faculty and six JE students.

Urry, who is a JE fellow, said Master Haller has been “fantastic” in his ability to merge his expertise in science with his passion for the arts, and she said she hopes a new master can continue this tradition.

Haller has continued long-standing JE traditions such as the Culture Draw — which sponsors tickets for students to see various plays, musicals, ballets and operas in New York City on Fridays and Saturdays — the JE art collection rental for students’ dorm rooms, special exhibitions of art in the master’s house and weekly fellows events.

Biomedical Engineering professor and resident fellow Michael Levene, who is serving on the search committee, said these traditions are not likely to fall by the wayside in future years.

“These things did not start with Haller, and they will not stop with him,” he said.

But Levene said Haller’s successor will have big shoes to fill. He cited a number of college-specific events that the master must oversee — Paskus Mellon dinners, fellows events, Master’s Teas, Culture Draw events, “fireside chats” with the students and maintenance of summer traveling fellowships such as the Bates Fellowship.

Many JE students interviewed said they have been pleased with Haller’s mastership and hope to see continuity in the traditions that distinguish the college.

“I love Master Haller because he lets things like COMA and Wet Monday continue,” Max Scholz ’08 said. “And he lets us buy hideous winter lights for Farnam [Hall]. It’s important to me that the next master continues all the tasteless traditions of JE.”

Maureen Gaj ’10, who is serving as a student representative on the committee, said she is open to the suggestions of any JE student. She said she had been advised to survey student opinion in order to pinpoint what the college community most wants in a master.

Haller, members of the committee and students all cited concern for students as the most important attribute of any potential master.

“We will undoubtedly choose someone who wants to merge his or her life with student life,” Urry said. “The master will become the head of a new family.”