Culbert leaves College for Loomis Chaffee
By Allie Lowe, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, January 7, 2008
Sheila Culbert, top adviser to College President James Wright, will leave Dartmouth to become headmaster at the Connecticut boarding school Loomis Chaffee at the end of this year. Culbert, who has worked at Dartmouth in various positions since 1989, also currently serves as interim vice president for public affairs at the College.
Culbert's position put her at the forefront of both emergency management and communication for the College during her tenure.
Discussing Culbert's accomplishments, Wright identified her work in preparing Dartmouth for a possible bird flu epidemic, and her response to a review of the College administration done by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company.
The McKinsey review, commissioned by the College in fall 2006 and released the following spring, called for more transparency in Dartmouth's administration and increased accountability among both staff and departments, among other changes.
In the wake of the report's release, Culbert served on a working group convened by Wright to address its recommendations, chairing a committee on culture and communication. The group eventually recommended revising the College's mission statement, which was completed in February 2007.
"[Culbert] was very important in working on the McKinsey report follow-up," Wright said, "[Culbert and the committee] looked at how we organize ourselves and how to build a more responsive culture here."
Wright also praised Culbert's work leading the Office of Public Affairs, a role she assumed on Feb. 1, 2007, at a time when Dartmouth has seen increased public scrutiny. She took the position in the wake of tension surrounding racially charged incidents during the Fall term of 2006 and the ongoing controversy over alumni governance. During her time in public affairs, she also played a role in creating the Ask Dartmouth website, which drew fire from now-elected petition trustee Stephen Smith '88, who charged that the site intended to damage his candidacy.
"It's been a challenging time, but it's also been a really interesting time," Culbert said of the position.
Replacing an individual with such extensive experience at the College will not be easy, Wright said.
"I haven't really begun to get my arms around it, because she's done so many things," Wright said. "Somebody can't just come in and pick up."
Culbert first came to Dartmouth as a visiting professor of history before becoming assistant dean of faculty and later assistant provost. She was named to her current position as senior assistant to the president in 1998, and has continued to teach history throughout her tenure.
Wright said that he planned to meet with Culbert and others to decide how to best address the vacancy and anticipates filling Culbert's position during Winter term.
Culbert's departure follows that of several other College administrators in recent years, including former Dean of the College James Larimore in May 2006, Associate Dean of the Office of Pluralism and Leadership Tommy Lee Woon in August 2006 and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Karl Furstenberg in July 2007.
Wright said that turnover of individuals like Culbert is a natural result of hiring qualified candidates.
"If you hire good people, they're going to have other opportunities," Wright said. "We've not had significant attrition."
Culbert, who cited having the opportunity to work alongside Wright as one of the most rewarding parts of her time at Dartmouth, said that in the years following her departure, financial aid and class size would be two issues of importance for the College.
"There are any number of challenges. You work your way through them," Culbert said. "The important thing is to stay focused on what your goals are, and that's what Jim Wright's done."
Representatives from Loomis Chaffee, a Windsor, Conn., boarding school with about 720 students, first contacted Culbert about the position in late summer 2007.
"The more I found out about Loomis Chaffee, the more impressed I was," said Culbert, who taught at Philips Exeter Academy before coming to Dartmouth and currently serves on the board of trustees at Kimball Union Academy.
"I hope it's a sort of natural progression," Culbert said of the move. "Obviously it's at a different level, but it's a lot of the same issues."
Though recognizing her extensive duties at Dartmouth, Culbert said she looks forward to assuming an even broader set of responsibilities as headmaster at Loomis.
Culbert said she was eager to take Loomis Chaffee, which will celebrate its centennial in 2014, into the next 10 years.
"It's just an exciting opportunity all around," she said.
Culbert will replace previous headmaster Russell H. Weigel, who has served in the position since 1996. Culbert's husband, Geography Professor Richard Wright, will continue in his position at the College.