Just one year after welcoming a new dean, Timothy Dwight students will be working with a new master starting in fall 2015.
TD Master Jeffrey Brenzel announced in an email Friday morning that he will not seek to renew his appointment after his fifth year as master and will step down at the end of this coming June. Brenzel — who served as dean of undergraduate admissions from 2005 to 2013 — wrote that his 18 years of service as a senior administrator have been both compelling and demanding.
“I love TD, our community life here and the privilege of serving as your Master,” Brenzel wrote in the Friday email. “These are goods of a kind that I am most reluctant to surrender.”
While acknowledging that stepping down was a very difficult decision, Brenzel added that he feels ready to move away from the responsibilities of the position to focus on various projects, both professional and personal, that he had delayed for several years.
A search committee consisting of TD “community members” will begin the search for Brenzel’s successor later this semester, according to an email sent by Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway to the faculty Friday morning.
In his email, Brenzel did not specify whether he plans to remain at Yale after this year. Bob Kennedy ’75, TD’s Operations Manager, said Brenzel is considering several options and aims to make a decision about his future plans by January.
While Brenzel will definitely step away from his administrative duties, Kennedy said he thinks Brenzel would prefer to remain affiliated with Yale in some capacity.
“It would have to be a pretty good offer to pull him away 100% from New Haven and from Yale,” Kennedy said.
Many of Brenzel’s colleagues in the Admissions Office and the on the Council of Masters lauded the work he has done as an administrator.
“I have the utmost regard for Master Brenzel,” Pierson College Master Stephen Davis wrote in a Friday email. “His wisdom and leadership have had a tremendously positive impact in the Council of Masters and I personally have learned so much from the peaceable, profoundly just and heartfelt way he inhabits his role.”
Five TD students interviewed expressed sadness at his decision to step down, as Brenzel had successfully fostered strong bonds within the college during his term.
“[Brenzel] creates such a community,” said Amelia Nierenberg ’18. “He’s my college dad.”
Vanessa Ague ’17 said she will miss Brenzel’s tireless efforts to create a community within TD, citing examples like music nights and his work to fix the buttery.
Abdul-Razak Zachariah ’17, a TD Master’s Aide, said that while he understands Brenzel’s decision, he is disappointed that he will not experience consistent leadership in TD during his four years there.
Another Master’s Aide, Audrey DeVaughn ‘17, said Brenzel did whatever it took to win the Tyng Cup for TD. She added that she will miss such a great master.
In addition to his role as TD master, Brenzel teaches Philosophy in the Directed Studies Program and a lecture class called “Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”
Carolyn Hansen ‘16, who is enrolled in Brenzel’s class, said she has enjoyed learning from him.
“He’s incredibly well read and a caring man,” Hansen said. “He recently stayed after section for an hour to talk. He loves history and he loves teaching.”
According to James Woodall ’16, who took “Catholic Intellectual Tradition” last fall, Brenzel led sections in his own home and often invited students to have lunch with him when class had finished. He added that Brenzel was personal, engaging with the students in a way Woodall said he has rarely experienced with other professors.
Ayaska Fernando ’08, an associate director of undergraduate admissions who has known Brenzel since 2008, said that Brenzel was an incredibly approachable boss at the Admissions Office. In particular, he recalled one late evening of work when Brenzel unexpectedly invited him to a hockey game, and said he began calling Brenzel by his first name after working with him for just one year.
Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Debra Johns said she greatly enjoyed working with Brenzel, who she described as thoughtful, patient, deliberate thorough and caring. She added that she used to love to watch Brenzel interact with students’ families.
Davenport College Master Richard Schottenfeld ‘71 said that increasing diversity among Yale College students was one of Brenzel’s most outstanding achievements, noting that his efforts towards this goal started during his tenure as Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and continued during his time as TD master. Schottenfeld added that while he will miss Brenzel’s voice in discussions among the masters, he is also excited to get to know and work with whoever is selected to be the next TD master.
“Master Brenzel is one of the most remarkable people I have ever known,” Jonathan Edwards College Master and special assistant to the president Penelope Laurans wrote in an email. “He cares about people — not just people in general, but people in specific. He deeply engages with them.”