Monthly Archives: July 2013


What makes a great dean? 

A dean is an academic administrator who almost always has held a prior faculty appointment but not necessarily at the same school. A dean handles most of the bureaucracy of running the academic school including determining rules and overseeing parts of the tenure and promotion process (a faculty member’s academic life or death, as it were) and determining which departments get to hire faculty each year. Thus, one needs a good administrator, one with sound judgement and a strong sense of what is fair and what is right, even though the two might not always agree. A dean is also required to raise money for the school. This requires social grace, patience, a gift for gab, and a gift for listening to gab from others at the right times. 

I think one also wants more – a dean with academic curiosity about all fields in the school. Not ever being under the following deans, I cannot comment on the overall soundness of each’s judgement or the amount of money each has raised. I am sure there are faculty who are or were displeased with each, such is a dean’s fate. However, they strike me as being deans who did not or have not lost interest in academics, even if one might disagree with their particular points of view. 

  • Henry Rosovsky, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard from 1973 to 1984. See his book, The University: An Owner’s Manual,

       One of my favorite parts involves Dean Rosovsky asking a famous scientist about his work and the scientist retorts that the dean can provide him with two things: flattery and money! 

        I am not a fan of the entry eulogizing Ted Kennedy, but it takes talent and guts to maintain a Blog, especially one that delves into so many different areas, while Dean of Arts and Sciences at Virginia!

        My husband is the mathematician who asked him for a chimpanzee! Of course Stanley Fish has received a great deal of criticism himself. See