Over 100 Cornell alumni, administrators, faculty and students gathered in Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room Tuesday to celebrate Dean of Students Kent L. Hubbell’s ’69 final semester in that role.
Hubbell — an architecture professor who will continue to teach in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning — has served as dean for 15 years. In that time, Hubbell has left an indelible mark on both the University and the people with whom he has worked, according to Joseph Burke, director of residential and student life programs.
“[Hubbell’s] generosity of spirit and kindness is as real as any bridge or building ever constructed, and it is certainly more enduring,” Burke said.
Several speakers testified to Hubbell’s unreserved commitment to serving students.
“At the core of his work has always been the students — not himself, not the staff and administrators, but rather, the students,” Burke said.
Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan T. Lombardi — a former dean of students at Ohio University — pointed out the selflessness required to perform Hubbell’s job.
“Every day, you are acting as an advocate for others, and Kent really embodied that notion of being an advocate for students,” Lombardi said. “I think it’s important for us to take the time out to thank him for those 15 years of advocacy.”
Hubbell said he enjoyed his work as dean, joking that “it’s just wonderful to work with students when you don’t have to give grades.”
“The most wonderful thing about Cornell is its students, so it has been a great pleasure dedicating myself to enriching the student experience,” Hubbell said. “The Cornell student experience is much more than the simple sum of courses and credit hours a student takes for a degree. That’s a very important concept that everybody in the Cornell community needs to understand.”
Former Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73, who hired Hubbell as dean in 2001, said Hubbell’s commitment to students was apparent from his application to the position.
“He wrote about the importance of student health, especially mental health, and the work that we on a college campus had to do to learn more about mental health and especially how to identify students who may have particular challenges,” Murphy said. “He wanted that to be a centerpiece of his deanship.”
Lombardi confirmed that Hubbell’s focus on student health endured throughout his tenure.
“Kent is a very genuine man, a very sincere man, who cares deeply about students and their well-being,” Lombardi said. “He has always seemed very focused on that and very committed to student advocacy on that front.”
In his time as dean, Hubbell also supported the creation of Cornell’s Asian and Asian American Center and made renovations to Willard Straight Hall that include the Cornell Ceramics Studio, the Browsing Library, the Fifth Floor Lounge and the Office of Student and Community Support.
Hubbell’s work for The Straight will be one of his lasting legacies, according to Matthew Stefanko ’16, Student Assembly Vice President of Finance.
“It is a complicated building, and being able to understand it the way he did — to be able to work on renovations and to be able to passionately advocate for the changes that were so badly needed — is certainly a legacy,” Stefanko said. “Anyone who has either used a resource in Willard Straight Hall or appreciated its aesthetic probably has Hubbell to thank.”
Hubbell said he plans to “rekindle [his] role as mild-mannered university professor of architecture” when he leaves his position as dean. He plans to teach one semester per year for the next four years.