Crystal Feimster announced as Head of Pierson College
The history professor will begin her five-year term this summer as current Head of College Stephen Davis steps down.
Miranda Wollen, Contributing Photographer
Crystal Feimster stood alongside her family as she spoke to the Pierson community for the first time on Tuesday night as their next Head of College.
The associate professor in the Departments of African American Studies and History will start her on July 1, 2023 after the current Head of College Stephen Davis finished after serving 10 years term in the role after this semester.
“I was thrilled when I heard the news that I would be the next Head of Pierson College,” Feimster wrote in an email to the News. “I’ve heard so much about the excellent work Head of College Professor Davis and Associate Head of College Rev. Jenny Davis have done to create and maintain an inclusive and socially engaged community and I am very much looking forward to building on their legacy.”
Feimster is a historian of 19th and 20th century African American history, U.S. women’s history and the American South and teaches popular courses on Critical Race Theory and The Long Civil Rights Movement.
Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis spoke at the announcement about Feimster’s dedication to residential life. She was a residential counselor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and served as a fellow for two of Yale’s residential colleges. Given her experience, Lewis said that she is “well-prepared to lead Pierson.”
“When I received the news that professor Feimster would be the next Head of College, I jumped for joy,” Davis told an audience of Piersonites Tuesday evening during a welcome ceremony in the college’s dining hall.
Davis described Feimster as a “person of deep, deep integrity and someone who inspires trust in everyone.” He thanked the Pierson community, including facilities, fellows and dining hall staff, for supporting him and his wife throughout their term, stating, “we are so grateful to have been able to share so many moments and to have forged friendships … it is a gift to be able to work with people that you love to work with and whom you love … thank you.”
Feimster, who was greeted by rousing applause, started her speech by thanking Stephen and Jenny Davis.
Feimster then spoke about how the new role came at a “pivotal” time in her life: her grandmother, a mentor and leader in her family, passed away in January. She noted that, as a Black woman growing up in the Jim Crow South, her grandmother did not have the privilege of a college education, but taught her many lessons.
“It was she who taught me the art of listening and the power of being heard,” Feimster told the crowd. “She taught me that it’s okay to ask for what you need. That depending on family, friends and community is part of the deal. One does not have to be in a state of emergency to ask for help getting from point A to point B.”
Behind her stood her partner, Daniel Botsman and their two sons, who will move into Pierson’s head of college house with their cat, Stanley, later this year. Botsman, a professor in the art history department, will join Feimster as the new associate head of Pierson.
In Lewis’s email to the Pierson community, he described about how Feimster’s research “analyze[s] some of the most elusive and traumatic facets of human experience.” She earned her doctorate in history from Princeton University and authored a prizewinning book, “Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching.”
“I can hardly wait to learn more about Pierson’s traditions and culture,” Feimster wrote to the News. “I am especially excited about the Halloween Party — Professor Botsman and I are dancing fools and love any opportunity we can get to dust off our dance shoes. And of course I cannot wait to snatch Davenport’s gnome!”
Pierson students packed into the dining hall, cheering and clapping for their new head of college. One Pierson student, Norah Laughter ’26, said she is already happy with Feimster’s appointment.
“She showed a commitment to making Pierson as welcoming as possible and as a transfer student, that’s very important to me,” Laughter said. “She’s also involved in southern studies and critical race theory, and it’s nice to have someone who’s in your field leading your college.”
“Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching” was published in 2009.