When Peter Crane first arrived in 2009 to become dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, he had to deal with the repercussions of the Great Recession.
The financial problems of FES, a self-supported school, posed one of the toughest challenges during his time in the role, as he had to tell several qualified staff and faculty that they no longer had a job. On Sep. 11, 2015, six years after his arrival at Yale, Crane announced his upcoming departure from FES in an email to the school community. He will become the inaugural president of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, an estate of Rachel Lambert Mellon that includes extensive gardens and a library of landscape history and plant science. June 30, 2016 will be Crane’s last day of his deanship.
According to colleagues, Crane’s time at Yale was marked by increased organizational infrastructure, improved relations with other graduate schools, financial stability and improved campus resources. Throughout his six years at the helm of the school, Crane said he has made students’ success his priority, which sometimes meant having to make tough calls.
“Oftentimes it comes down to the question ‘Does this benefit the students or not?’ It’s not rocket science,” Crane said. “The job of any leader is often about judgment with all decisions, whether they are big ones or small ones, and trying to make the right calls on all those decisions for the betterment of the school.”
FES professor Chad Oliver said in an email that all of Crane’s actions, including recruiting new diverse faculty and organizing staff into collaborative professional groups, helped elevate FES to a “well organized and fair” institution.
According to Brad Gentry, associate dean of FES, Crane was crucial in helping forge close ties between FES and the School of Management. He added that Crane made a significant step in incorporating FES students into research on campus.
Students always came first for Crane, Gentry said adding that Crane’s main focus was to get students involved in faculty and staff research.
Crane did not spend time trying to accomplish infeasible goals, Oliver said.
“Dean Crane had an expression: ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good,’” Oliver said. “Although I was skeptical of this perspective in academic circles, Dean Crane applied it judiciously. [H]e accomplished many things that needed to be done.”
Crane said he could not pass up the opportunity of becoming Oak Spring Garden Foundation president and is excited by the chance to create a new site committed to the history, uses and future of plants. University President Peter Salovey wrote, in an email to the Yale community, that a national search will commence shortly for Crane’s successor.
Looking back on his time at Yale, Crane said he would most miss the cyclical nature of the school year. Every fall he met the new, nervous FES students. Three years later, he got to look out upon the sea of happy faces surrounded by their friends and family on commencement.
“In my years at Yale I have learned from, and been supported by, many friends in FES and across the entire campus,” Crane wrote in his departure announcement. “It is my hope that these friendships will endure well into the future. With my deepest thanks for all we have accomplished so far, and all we will accomplish together in the coming year.”
The School of Forestry and Environmental Studies was founded in 1900.