Top advisor to president, philosophy profs leave College
By Anya Perret, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, June 9, 2008
A senior advisor to College President James Wright and six tenured faculty members are among those who will bid the College farewell along with the class of 2008. Many are retiring, while some are assuming posts at other institutions.
Sheila Culbert, top adviser to Wright, will leave Dartmouth to become headmaster at Loomis Chaffee, a Connecticut boarding school. Culbert has worked at Dartmouth in various capacities since 1989 and served as interim vice president of communications from Feb. 1, 2007 until March 8, 2008, when Diana Pearson assumed the role.
"It's been a challenging time, but it's also been a really interesting time," Culbert said of her position in the Office of Public Affairs in a January interview with The Dartmouth.
She was also a member of the working group that suggested the revision of the College's mission statement. The College formed the group in response to a 2006 review of the administration calling for greater accountability and transparency.
Culbert began her time at Dartmouth as a visiting professor of history. Since then, Culbert, who continued to teach history throughout her tenure, has served as assistant dean of faculty and assistant provost. She became Wright's senior assistant in 1998.
Three tenured professors at the College -- Konrad Kenkle of the German Studies department, Virginia Swain of the French and Italian department and David Wykes of the English department -- will retire this year with a cumulative 94 years of experience teaching at Dartmouth.
Kenkel joined the German studies department in 1974 after leaving a teaching position at St. Olaf College. Educated at the Universities of Hamsburg and Indiana, Kenkel taught courses at Dartmouth that ranged from comparative literature to beginning German.
Kenkel also helped to establish the department's Language Study Abroad programs, annual internships for German studies students in the Bundestag and the Harris German Dartmouth Distinguished Visiting Professorship, which has brought 77 visiting professors to the department, according to Bruce Duncan, another German studies professor .
"He was an energetic teacher who set high standards for his students and himself and he was always extremely available to work individually with them," Gerd Gemunden, German studies department chair, said of Kenkel.
Another long-term professor, Swain came to Dartmouth in 1978.
During her tenure, she has taught the full range of French courses, from introductory language to senior seminars. She has also taught in the Women and Gender Studies and the Comparative Literature departments, according to French and Italian department chair Lynn Higgins.
"She's an excellent colleague and a good friend," Higgins said.
Swain said the College has changed greatly over the past 30 years. Some of these changes were for the better, such as the College's becoming more welcoming to minorities, but some were not, such as the increased focus on pre-professional tracks, she said.
"In my first few years at the College, there was a good deal of unrest directed at the minority students on campus, the Native Americans and the women," Swain said. "Classes were suspended in my first or second year, so that public discussions could be held, and this ferment caused the small number of women faculty to band together and think about what needed to be done for ourselves, our future and for our women students. Today, I think women are much more at home at Dartmouth, and the number of women faculty has grown to such an extent that I certainly do not know them all."
Wykes, appointed to Dartmouth's faculty in 1972, will leave the English department this fall. Wykes teaches courses about the English Bible, the Restoration and Eighteenth Century Literature.
"David Wykes has been one of the most attentive and encouraging teachers in our department," said English department chair Gretchen Gerzina in a tribute to Wykes earlier this term. Wykes made literature accessible to non-majors who may have felt intimidated by it, while also being a "meticulous" scholar who conducted specialized research, she added.
Wykes also received high ratings in the Student Assembly course guide.
"Professor Wykes gives extremely interesting lectures, and although the readings can be a little tough to understand at times, he does a great job of making the material accessible," a member of the class of 2009 wrote about Wykes' class about the King James Bible.
Another retiree, engineering professor Francis Kennedy, holds a position at the Thayer School of Engineering, but has taught many undergraduate courses, Thayer Dean Joseph Helble said.
"Through the years, [Kennedy] has taught nearly all of our core undergraduate curriculum in mechanical engineering," Helble said. "He also has incredible dedication to his students and incredible recall. Alumni have told me stories of how professor Kennedy can see them 20 years later and remind them of a score they got on a specific exam in a specific course."
All four professors have been on pre-retirement leave for the past two years as part of the College's phased retirement plan.
Several faculty members are leaving to pursue careers at other institutions. Economics professor Pascaline Dupas is leaving to accept a position at the University of California, Los Angeles, according to department chair Patricia Anderson. In the philosophy department, professors Roy Sorensen and Julia Driver are assuming positions at Washington University in St. Louis, philosophy department chair Amy Allen said.