Weinberg dean to resign

Sasha Talcott

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Weinberg Dean Eric Sundquist announced Friday that he will resign his position at the end of next year and return to the classroom.

Sundquist, who has been dean since 1997, said he will remain in the position until June 2002, when he will either become a full-time Northwestern professor or transfer to another school.

Sundquist said on Sunday that although he enjoys the role of dean, his administrative duties take valuable time away from his research interests and give him little time to interact with students.

“Being a dean is really a full-time administrative job,” said Sundquist, who taught a graduate English class last Winter Quarter. “I have very little time for teaching and research.”

Sundquist said he began to think about resigning earlier this quarter but agreed to remain in the position until NU administrators could find a replacement. He said his five-year stint as an administrator will help him balance administrative and student needs.

“A faculty member who has been an administrator can see the larger picture,” he said. “Students are the reason we’re here at the university. Sometimes we lose track of that fact.”

Sundquist’s resignation marks the beginning of NU’s fifth dean search in the last year. Administrators are currently gathering applicants for the dean of the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and they recently filled deanships in the School of Medicine, the Medill School of Journalism and the School of Speech.

NU likely will form a committee Spring Quarter to conduct a national search for Sundquist’s replacement, said Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations. He said NU will pick a new dean by the end of the next academic year, when Sundquist is set to step down.

During his three-and-a-half years as dean, Sundquist oversaw the renaming of the school to the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and helped raise a record $144 million. He also established an Asian-American studies minor and made plans to hire as many as 30 additional faculty for the college.

“The role of dean allows you to see how the different departments and disciplines fit together,” he said. “A faculty member and department chair might know a great deal about his own department, but deans interact with all the other departments as well.”

He also played a key role in the decision to add a new wing to Kresge Hall and to build two new North Campus science buildings, worked to boost financial aid for graduate students and increased undergraduate research grants.

“Eric’s dedication to the college has been complete,” Provost Lawrence Dumas wrote in an e-mail to Weinberg faculty and students. “When he leaves the deanship in June 2002, we will miss his energy, his wisdom, his remarkable command of the varied activities of the college faculty, and his wry humor as well.”

Sundquist’s tenure also was marked by student protests over the departure of a popular Hispanic studies professor – a challenge the dean said demonstrates the need for additional student input in faculty hiring decisions.

“One of the things that became clear during that episode was that students could benefit by pressing their concerns and they could initiate real progress,” he said. “The result is that there is a real interest in trying to involve students more closely in department decisions.”

Sundquist came to NU from the University of California at Los Angeles, where he was chairman of the English department. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas in 1974 and a doctorate in English in 1978 from Johns Hopkins University.

After finishing college, Sundquist taught at Johns Hopkins for two years before joining the University of California at Berkeley faculty. He moved to UCLA in 1989 and became department chair in 1994.

When he leaves the dean position, Sundquist said he plans to finish a research project comparing the portrayal of blacks and Jews in 20th Century literature.

Sundquist’s colleagues said the dean makes an effort to reach out to professors and students.

“Many people who go into administration really want to be professors,” said linguistics Prof. Rae Moses. “They want to teach. Eric really enjoys the classroom more than the office of the dean. He’s a born teacher.”

Moses said Sundquist succeeded in recruiting high-profile faculty to the English and anthropology departments.

“The college has just gotten better,” she said.

Sundquist also oversaw the women’s studies department name change to gender studies and expanded the focus of its curriculum, she said.

Physics Prof. Hui Cao said the dean has made a special effort to reach out to new faculty and to support them in their work.

When the American Physical Society recognized Cao’s work last week, she said, the dean sent her a personal letter of congratulations.

“He really cares about the young professors and tries to encourage them,” she said. “I appreciate it. As a dean, he has a lot of other things to do.”