Interim leader named for Tech

Amy Hamblin and Amy Hamblin

Joseph Schofer will serve as the interim dean for the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science while a committee continues to narrow the finalist pool for a permanent appointee, Provost Lawrence Dumas said Wednesday.

Schofer, an associate dean of McCormick and civil engineering professor, could fill the position for up to a year, depending on when a permanent dean is hired. Schofer will take over at the end of June, when the current dean, John Birge, will finish his term.

Schofer is not being considered for the permanent position and said he is not interested in serving in that capacity.

The search committee is still conducting interviews with potential finalists, said committee chairman Wally Hopp. Dumas and University President Henry Bienen will make the final selection from three to five finalists in mid-June, Hopp said.

But even after finalists are selected, it could take months before the new dean starts because the search includes candidates inside and outside the university. If the new dean is not from NU, the transition period likely will be longer due to scheduling issues, Dumas said.

Schofer received both his master’s degree and doctorate from NU before becoming a professor in 1970. His research has focused on transportation and pedestrian safety.

Schofer said a new dean likely will step in at the beginning of a new quarter for an easier transition, unless it happens during the summer.

“I’m there to preserve the continuity and stability of the school,” Schofer said.

Dumas cited Schofer’s experience as associate dean and civil engineering department chairman for five years as qualifications.

Schofer has taught at NU for more than 30 years — something he said he is wary to give up.

“Being the interim dean is likely to be an all-consuming job,” Schofer said but added, “I don’t want to lose touch with (teaching).”

He said he also wants to keep advising students. Despite the time demands, Birge has been able to continue teaching as dean.

“Dean Birge currently makes time to teach a freshman course in the fall, which is highly unusual,” said Joe Holtgreive, McCormick’s assistant dean for student affairs. “I hope (Schofer) will be able to teach because he’s a very beloved and distinguished professor.”

Many people within McCormick are grateful that Schofer accepted the position because of the many challenges the search committee has faced. One of the top candidates for the deanship removed himself from consideration earlier in the search process.

“We are happy that he agreed to the job,” said Hopp, an industrial engineering professor. “It’s one of those thankless tasks.”