Last May, Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin announced that chair of the Cornell physics department, G. Peter Lepage, would replace Phillip Lewis, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, on an interim basis for the coming academic year.
Lepage had served on the original search committee which chose University of Chicago’s Robert Fefferman, Louis Block Professor and former Chair of their Mathematics Department, who declined the position.
In an email to The Sun, Martin said the university “chose Fefferman as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences because of his success as department chair at the University of Chicago and his commitment to the liberal arts and the highest quality research and teaching.”
“We were particularly impressed by his ability to recruit top scholars and his dedication to undergraduate education,” Martin said.
‘Matter of Lifestyle’
Fefferman said the decision “came down to a matter of lifestyle.” He said the offer was a fabulous position at a world renowned university but that he was instead taking on a position as Dean of Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago “for my whole family.”
Fefferman added that he “thought Cornell University was an awesome university” and that “Provost Biddy Martin and President Jeffrey Lehman are a fabulous combination.”
Martin said “We were disappointed by Fefferman’s decision, but delighted that Peter Lepage agreed to serve as acting dean of the college.” During the original search committee process, Lepage “impressed his colleagues with his thoughtfulness, insight, humor and good judgment,” Martin said.
In a press release sent out by the University, former President Hunter R. Rawlings III said, “Peter Lepage is a superb scientist and teacher who has considerable experience with broad issues at Cornell. He is thus extremely well-suited to lead the College of Arts and Sciences. I am delighted with his appointment.”
Lepage has been a member of the Cornell faculty since 1980 where he has spent his entire professional career in the College of Arts and Sciences as a physicist.
“I am looking forward to experiencing the college as a whole,” Lepage said, noting that he already enjoyed getting to know much of it during his tenure as physics chair. Lepage said, “I may not teach this year, I have so much to learn. However, I will still be involved in research.”
Lepage is replacing Lewis after he was asked to step down in the summer of 2002 by Martin. Henrik N. Dullea ’61, former vice president for University relations, said that the decision was made in the interests of “the best working relationship between the University and the college.”
Dullea said there was no connection between Lewis’ resignation and other recent major administrative turnovers, including those of Rawlings and Lynne S. Abel, associate dean for undergraduate admissions and education and director of the Academic Advising Center.
According to a university press release, “Lewis was particularly successful in a number of key initiatives, including the college’s success in raising $29.1 million during the university’s $171 million undergraduate scholarship campaign.”
After a year sabbatical Lewis will return to the university as a professor of romance languages.
Concerning the process for selecting a new permanent dean, Martin said, “We will resume work in September when we will begin identifying prospects who may not have been available last year and/or whose names we did not have available to us.”
On whether Lepage may continue serving as Dean past this upcoming year, Martin said, “I don’t believe Dean Lepage knows at this point whether he is interested in becoming a candidate when the search resumes.”
Lepage replied similarly with, “Who can say?”
Archived article by Brian Kaviar