March 11, 2002

Cornell Appoints New Dean For College of Engineering

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The College of Engineering now officially has a permanent dean.

University President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin announced last Friday that W. Kent Fuchs, of Purdue University, will succeed interim dean Harold Craighead as the next J. Silbert Dean of the College.

Rawlings and Martin will present Fuchs’ appointment to the University’s Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees for approval when the Board next meets in April.

“I’m delighted with the appointment. [Fuchs will] make a first-rate dean,” Rawlings said. “He has very strong support from the faculty in Engineering.”

This ends a year-long search that included candidates inside and outside of the Cornell community.

Last March, then dean John Hopcroft announced that he was vacating the office when his term ended in June.

As the search for a new dean began, Craighead assumed the role of interim dean, a role which lasted until Fuchs takes office July 1.

“I think [Fuchs’] is an excellent choice. He’ll make an excellent dean. I think the breath [of his knowledge] will work well with the College,” Craighead said.

Fuchs’ extensive background comes from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana and the University of Illinois among others. He obtained his master of science degree at the University of Illinois in 1982 and at Purdue, Fuchs is the head of the school of electrical and computer engineering and the Michael J. and Catherine R. Birck distinguished professor.

“He’s had a very successful career. He’s been through all the ranks at a university. It’s a terrific track record,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

Members of the Engineering community feel that this experience — along with his work in laboratory and research at Purdue — will make Fuchs an essential and beneficial leader of the growing College.

“He brings a lot of experience [with him]. His presentation for the [engineering] faculty was very impressive. I think he’s a very good choice,” said Prof. Clifford Pollock, electrical and computer engineering.

Hopcroft not only noted that he was pleased with the University’s decision to appoint Fuchs but also how he was pleased that the search process has ended, giving the College an official leader during this era of improving technology.

“I think it’s very important that the College have a leader. We’ve been in a holding pattern for a year. I think that it’s absolutely critical [to have a dean]. In the engineering discipline is constantly moving forward. We need someone to be looking down the road at where we’ll be in the next 10 years,” Hopcroft said.

During Craighead’s tenure as interim dean, the search process stalled after original candidates were interviewed by the search committee, headed by Martin, but no candidates were selected.

Pollock was one of those original candidates who interviewed last March for the position along with Prof. Sidney Leibovich, mechanical and space engineering, and other engineering professors from outside universities.

“[The engineeringfaculty is] very happy to see [the search] brought to a conclusion,” Pollock said.

Dullea agreed noting that while the engineering dean search process followed standard procedure, it did take a little longer than usual dean searches have in the past. However, he added that the search committee’s goal was to select the best candidate for the position, no matter how long it would take.

“The main thing is to find the person with the right fit. This took a little longer but they don’t always [take little time]. You want to get the right person,” Dullea added.

He noted how the search committee’s member format helps aid in the search by allowing different members of the Engineering community to have their voices heard.

“It was led by the Provost with extensive participation from the faculty and [additional] groups,” Dullea said.

Although the actual makeup of the committee was kept under wraps during most of the process, it did include members of the Engineering student body, from the Engineering Student Council (ESC) who met with the earlier candidates during the interview process last March, according to Regina Clewlow, grad, interim president of the Engineering Student Council.

“The process was handled by an independent group and they contacted [the ESC] to select a group to represent the students. We met with the candidates and wrote a report for the search committee. That was the extent of our involvement,” Clewlow said.

Nevertheless, she noted how the ESC approves of Fuchs’ appointment.

“We’re really pleased with the result. We’re happy with his approach to administration. He seems very open to student input. We’re pleased with his overall approach,” Clewlow said.

Now that these engineering constituencies agreed on the benefits that Fuchs’ will bring to the position, former dean Hopcroft described what he feels Fuchs will need to make the best of his time as dean.

“I think [Fuchs] will have to learn quickly about a private institution coming from Purdue, focusing on computing in engineering, bioengineering and how to regain some of the momentum [for the college],” Hopcroft said.

This is a task Fuchs feels he is ready for and pleased to do at Cornell. “It is a great honor to lead one of the world’s finest colleges of engineering. I look forward to serving the Cornell faculty, students and alumni with dedication, energy and enthusiasm,” Fuchs said in a University press release.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins