Next month marks the change of the guard in the Division of Student and Academic Services. John L. Ford, the current Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students, will become vice president and dean of campus life at Emory University on Jan. 3 after 26 years at Cornell.
Before a new dean is named at the end of the academic year, Tanni Hall ’76, associate dean of students, will step into the position as interim dean.
The Cornell community will bid farewell to John Ford and his wife, Hilary, the assistant dean and director of graduate school admissions, at a celebration Dec. 11 in Willard Straight Hall at 4 p.m.
“I leave with very mixed feelings. I leave very happy with my experience. I’m also excited,” John Ford said. “I just hope my successor enjoys working in this position as much as I have.”
Hall has served as interim dean before; in the spring of 1999, she stepped in when John Ford became an American Council on Education Fellow.
“I was so excited to have the opportunity come through, to feel so supported by so many people,” Hall said. “I got some wonderful, encouraging, supportive congratulatory notes from students, faculty and staff.”
Two notes in particular stood out for Hall. After Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, announced Hall’s appointment, she received notes from Francille M. Firebaugh, a former dean in the College of Human Ecology, and Patsy M. Brannon, the college’s current dean.
Hall was a student in the human ecology college when Firebaugh was dean, and now she has advanced to the ranks of Cornell dean herself.
“We are probably going to have lots of time between now and the end of the semester, when he leaves, to meet and plan the transition,” Hall said. “I’ll be wanting to make sure that I form those connections that John has that I don’t already have.”
The farewell celebration for the Fords will be sponsored by the Division of Student and Academic Services, the Graduate School and the department of Policy Analysis and Management.
“I think it will be very upbeat, a chance for them to say a fond farewell,” Murphy said. “Together [John and Hilary Ford] have served this campus in many ways, the Cornell community and the Ithaca community.”
“Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate — it’s great for John … a great promotion for him,” said President Hunter R. Rawlings III, who will be speaking at the event. “He’s really a terrific University citizen.”
John and Hilary Ford worked together as lecturers and then tenured faculty members in the College of Human Ecology from 1974 to 1992. From 1986 to 1988, they served as faculty members-in-residence.
John Ford became dean of students in 1992 after the merger of the offices of Student Union and Activities. He was appointed to a second five-year term in 1997.
In 1992, Hilary Ford was appointed to the assistant dean for graduate student life and, in 1994, became the director of graduate school admissions.
“There have been some very hard parts, when students have died,” John Ford said. However, he added, “Just being remembered by Cornell students after they graduated and being reminded of the things we did is very heart warming.”
Hilary Ford said that it is the students she will miss the most, especially graduate school students.
“Graduate school is very demanding, very stressful, and it’s often hard to finish a degree. It’s particularly encouraging when a student — who maybe had a hard time — finishes,” she said.
Murphy will chair the search committee for the new dean of students, composed of a group of 15 administrators, faculty, staff and students.
The committee has already begun to put out advertisements and is receiving nominations for candidates. The search, at this point, is focused on campus.
“We’re continuing the tradition that John started, a tenured member of our faculty,” Murphy said.
Catherine Holmes, associate dean of students, is one of the members of the search committee. “I don’t know if its professional to say it’s going to be fun, but it will be, and I am looking forward to it,” she said.
— Matthew Hirsch contributed to this article
Archived article by Beth Herskovits