After eight years of service, Associate Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry will leave Yale at the end of June, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway announced in a campus-wide email Monday afternoon.
Gentry, who first came to the University in 2007, will take a position as dean of students at his alma mater, Sewanee: The University of the South, on July 1. The move is both a professional and personal opportunity, Gentry said in an email to the News, as it will allow him to be just a short car ride away from his family in Tennessee.
“My time at Yale has been nothing short of magical,” Gentry said. “I thoroughly have enjoyed working with students, and I could not have asked for better colleagues throughout the University. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve Yale for eight fulfilling years.”
In his email, Holloway noted the extensive scope of Gentry’s contributions to campus life, ranging from freshman orientation to campus alcohol policies. Gentry has contributed to various diversity initiatives on campus, working with organizations such as the Chaplain’s Office and the LGBTQ Resource Center. He also founded the Intercultural Affairs Council, which strives to increase conversation across identities and promote cultural awareness.
At Sewanee, Gentry will continue his involvement with students’ extracurricular affairs, administering events at the university’s Union Theatre and Stirling’s Coffee House, Holloway added. Additionally, he will oversee the university’s counseling and health services as well as programs such as Multicultural Affairs and Career and Leadership Development.
Holloway noted that Gentry has demonstrated a commitment to diversity throughout his career, from creating a minority recruiting program at Middlebury College, where he served as associate dean before coming to Yale, to his monthly “Listening Dinners,” which he co-hosts with University Chaplain Sharon Kugler, whose arrival to Yale coincided with Gentry’s.
According to Kugler, Gentry has been both an exemplary leader as well as a close personal friend. During their eight years together on campus, they have invited students, chosen at random from various cross-sections of the University, to these Listening Dinners to share their Yale experiences and hopes and concerns regarding student life.
“[At those dinners,] Marichal and I often look across the table and just smile at how remarkable this time is and feel quite energized by it all,” Kugler said. “I treasure my memories of those dinners and all the incredible students we have had [the] good fortune to listen to over the last eight years.”
East Asian Languages and Literatures professor William Zhou, who befriended Gentry through a Richard U. Light Fellowship meeting and subsequently traveled with him through China, described how Gentry dedicated long hours to his job. Zhou said that when he tried to invite Gentry to his home for dinner, the only day that Gentry was available was Sunday, because he worked almost every Saturday.
Maria Trumpler, director of Yale’s LGBTQ Resource Center, praised Gentry’s personal approach to building community on campus. Trumpler, who worked with Gentry at Middlebury before they came to Yale, noted that he brought Middlebury’s focus on collaboration between staff, faculty and students to the Intercultural Affairs Council — a collaboration that is not often emphasized at Yale, she said.
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd added that Gentry’s leadership has been critical as the College addresses sensitive issues such as sexual violence and high-risk drinking.
In navigating complex issues, where certain groups may feel targeted or marginalized, Gentry has always approached such situations with thoughtfulness and humanity, Trumpler said, adding that it is this that has made him so popular with students.
“If you ever try to walk with him some place, it takes about 10 minutes to get a block, because he is just saying hi to everybody and knows so many people,” she said.
Indeed, Holloway said in his email that through Gentry’s work with every aspect of student life at Yale, he has become one of the most visible figures on campus.
Gentry made regular appearances in the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s annual Halloween show. Ben Healy ’16, the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s head publicity officer, said that when Gentry was asked to appear as Glinda the Good Witch in this year’s show, he showed up wearing a gray suit with a pink tie and pink pocket square and had no problem wearing a tiara and waving a magic wand.
Yale College Council president Michael Herbert ’16, who meets with Gentry on a weekly basis, said Gentry is the administrator that he meets with most often and that the YCC will “miss the heck out of him.” During their meetings, Herbert said, Gentry would give his perspective and recommendations on the feasibility of YCC projects.
“He is always very ebullient and has perhaps the biggest personality on campus,” Herbert said. “Somebody is going to have big shoes to fill!”
All eight students interviewed said that they knew who Gentry was, and all but one said he was a visible presence on campus.
Gentry would often provide guidance to the members of the Freshman and Sophomore Class Councils, said Sukriti Mohan ’17, who has served on both bodies.
Hammaad Adam ’16, who said he knew Gentry from his college-wide emails and from watching the recent Branford College Crushes and Chaperones promotional video, said Gentry seemed like a “sassy yet approachable guy.”
Holloway told the News that he is just beginning conversations with his senior team to think through what the structure of the Yale College Dean’s Office will look like as it moves forward. He added that while the precise areas of responsibility for Gentry’s successor have yet to be determined, there will definitely be somebody in a leadership position in charge of student affairs.
The search for a successor will begin immediately and, with the assistance of the YCC, will take student input into consideration, Holloway added in the campus-wide email.
At the end of the term, the Yale community will have a chance to celebrate Gentry at a going-away event, Holloway said.
This article has been updated to reflect the version published in print on March 24, 2015.