Jody Spooner ’91 announced Monday that he will step down from his position as Jonathan Edwards College Dean to become the president of Ferrum College, a small liberal arts college in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
Spooner, who has served as dean for three years, announced to Jonathan Edwards students that he and his wife Nicole Gelfert are excited to join the community at Ferrum, whose motto is “Not self, but others.” Spooner’s relocation to Virginia comes on the heels of the departure of long-serving head of college Penelope Laurens and sets up Jonathan Edwards for a major administrative overhaul this coming fall. Chemical and Biomedical Engineering professor Mark Saltzman will become the next head of college, but a replacement for Spooner has yet to be announced.
In a heartfelt email to the college, Spooner said he and his family leave Yale with fond memories and with optimism for the future of the college, adding that he will continue his fond relationships with JE students.
“Living at Yale, both as a student and as a dean was rarely, if ever, easy; but the perspective and peace borne from my own difficult moments and seeming insurmountable challenges have provided me with the strength, courage, and faith to believe even the impossible could be achieved,” Spooner wrote. “[It] has led me to personal happiness and professional fulfillment far, far beyond my undergraduate dreams.”
During the past three years at Yale, Spooner taught the popular American Studies seminar “Sports, Civil Rights and American Leadership.”
Dhruv Aggarwal ‘16 said Spooner was decent, humane and unconditionally loving as dean of JE. One of Spooner’s smaller legacies, but one that Aggarwal nonetheless remembered fondly, was the introduction of “wenzel” sandwiches from Alpha Delta Pizza at the dean’s study breaks.
“[Spooner] is someone who would hear you out patiently, and somehow just know what was on your mind, and what ought to be done about it,” Aggarwal said.
Adriana Miele ‘16, a former columnist at the News, said Spooner knew each JE student by name, and thrived in a small community.
Spooner’s new job as president of a college will be no less stressful than his deanship at Yale, Miele said, but the role will carry different responsibilities and pressures.
Spooner treated students with respect, but also sought to connect with them. Miele said she convinced Spooner to watch the television show “Gilmore Girls,” whose protagonist attends Yale.
Yale College dean Jonathan Holloway said he has already reached out to Laurans and Saltzman about the deanship search and added that there is already “quite a pool of remarkable candidates.” The YCDO will begin receiving applications tomorrow and will count on the help of JE fellows and students currently on campus for the selection process.
Holloway added that having a new head of college and new dean in the same year is tough, but manageable.
Spooner will be the 11th president of Ferrum, succeeding the college’s first female president Jennifer Braaten. Braaten served as president of Ferrum for 14 years, increasing the college’s enrollment and introducing a number of new academic programs during her tenure.
“We are very excited as a campus community to welcome Dr. Spooner and feel he will be the perfect person to fulfill the vision and the aspirations of Ferrum College as we move forward,” said president Braaten.