Journal Archive > 2001 > November

Provost to step down

Sol Gittleman…stepping down as provost © Richard Howard

Gittleman to step down as provost; new leadership team named

Sol Gittleman, the sixth provost of Tufts University, will step down from that post after 21 years and continue to teach undergraduates while also teaching alumni—people, he jokes, who are closer to his own age.

In an October 29 announcement to the Tufts community, Gittleman said he would remain provost until a successor is named. At the same time, he and President Lawrence S. Bacow announced a series of other leadership changes that will restructure the School of Arts and Sciences as well as create two new university-wide associate provost positions. The actions were taken to help unite Tufts' eight schools and also strengthen the roles of deans.

Ioannis N. Miaoulis, dean of the School of Engineering, and Dr. Mary Y. Lee, dean of educational affairs at the School of Medicine, have joined the university's senior leadership team as associate provosts.


Susan Ernst …dean of A&S © Mark Morelli

Ernst to lead A&S
The position of vice president for arts, sciences and engineering, a job held by Mel Bernstein, who left Tufts in August to become provost at Brandeis, has been eliminated. Instead, Susan Ernst, who was dean of natural and social sciences under the old organization, is the new dean of Arts & Sciences. She came to Tufts in 1979 as an assistant professor of biology. David Walt, Robinson Professor of Chemistry, has been named chairman of the new University Council on Graduate Education, which will find ways to integrate graduate programs in arts, sciences and engineering.

All the administrative changes took effect November 1.

Gittleman said that Bacow's first few months at Tufts have included considerable consultation with faculty and staff throughout the university, particularly in Arts, Sciences and Engineering.

"He's worked hard to understand priorities and structures," Gittleman said. "He and I have met regularly to discuss what he's learned and how we might rethink the organization to achieve a number of objectives. These include taking a fresh look at the undergraduate experience, enhancing graduate education, flattening the administrative structure, strengthening the roles of deans with primary responsibility for the faculty and building stronger ties between Arts, Sciences and Engineering and other schools at Tufts."

Empowered deans
Gittleman said that he and the president have carefully considered possibilities for improving the organizational structure while looking for ways to save money. "Larry is committed to enhancing faculty salaries," Gittleman said. "We plan to direct the savings from this restructuring toward the faculty salary pool."

He said that he and Bacow are aligning the leadership of Arts, Sciences and Engineering to empower the deans to address both undergraduate and graduate education issues in a comprehensive way. In addition, these deans will be placed "at the table" with the other school deans to promote collaboration across disciplines. Ernst will now be a member of the President's Council along with Miaoulis and the deans of the dental, medical, Fletcher, nutrition, veterinary and Sackler schools.

Miaoulis, who has been engineering dean since 1994, earned his undergraduate, master's and Ph.D. degrees from Tufts and also has a master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. He is the founder of the Center for Engineering Educational Outreach and was instrumental last year in the decision made by the Massachusetts Board of Education to require that engineering be taught in grades K-12. A hallmark of his tenure as dean has been the encouragement of women to enter the field of engineering.

Lee, who earned her undergraduate and medical degrees from Tufts, will focus on better integration of programs in the health sciences as well as promote other university-wide teaching initiatives.



Ioannis N. Miaoulis …associate provost © Mark Morelli

Dr. Mary Lee …associate provost © Joshua Touster

Always a teacher
In an interview after the announcement was made, Gittleman spoke about his own plans, which include teaching both Tufts students and alumni as well as having more time for baseball—the game he not only loves with a passion but that he sees as a metaphor for life in the modern world.

"First of all," he said, "I'm relieved. I've always been a person who responded to pressure, but I've always felt the pressure, whether going into the classroom or in this office. It's been 21 years of constant engagement with very important issues. It's not relaxing, but then again, I'm not a relaxing person. Teaching is also, for me, not relaxing. The fear of failure is the greatest incentive for the teacher. You're only as good as the last class you taught. You have to prove yourself constantly, and I felt that in this job, too."

Gittleman acknowledged that after 21 years—which may make him the longest-serving provost in the United States—letting go of the office will be an adjustment.

"There is a certain kind of headiness being this close to the president. You become a little euphoric sitting next to the leader of the university. You also shape the job according to your own talents, and the next provost will have a different skill set than mine."

Gittleman said this year he realized he is 50 years older than his students and that while he enjoys teaching young people, "I feel so good when people are closer to my own age." He expects to be teaching alumni in some capacity, noting that he's always been interested in the idea of lifelong learning. He will remain the Nathan and Alice Gantcher Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies and a professor of German.

"I still want to be the teacher and teach kids who graduated 30 years ago whose education is not complete. School never ends; college never ends. It just goes on."

As for his ongoing love of baseball, Gittleman said he no longer roots for a particular team, he just enjoys the game.

"I was a Yankees fan. Now I just like to watch any interesting game. As you watch the evolution of American values in the 20th century, baseball is a metaphor for almost all the social, political and historic change that went on in the last 100 years. Integration, American business practices, anti-trust laws, crime corruption—baseball has every aspect of American life. Watch immigrant groups coming in and taking their place in the game—now it's Latinos and Asians. It keeps going."

Gittleman has won two Fulbright awards, earned the Danforth Foundation's Harbison Prize for outstanding teaching, received two honorary doctorates and been chosen Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

In a 1982 essay called "Why I Teach," Gittleman wrote: "I teach because I can't keep quiet, because I feel that I have something terribly important to communicate, because I believe in what I am doing, because I am still scared to death every time I walk into a classroom, because I think I can make a difference in peoples' lives, and because I still think it is the greatest life in the world. The older I get, the more I love it."