I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at the seemingly alarming array of pictures—including my own – on the front page of today’s Reveille, “15 Gone and Counting.” I certainly wasn’t too alarmed when I worked my way through the pictures and the story.
First of all, I am not leaving LSU but going back to LSU’s History Department where I belong. Moreover, the thought that anybody would worry about the fate of LSU because I would no longer be a dean struck me as pretty funny. Most of the students in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences probably don’t know me from Adam, much to my regret, but I am quite sure none are traumatized at the thought of having a different dean. I’d bet that some faculty members in the college are relieved there will be a new dean. At the very least, they realize — and find consolation in the fact that — deans always come and go.
As for me, the big news in my mind is not that I will be leaving the dean’s office in 15 months, but that I will be staying as long as I am. Four years ago, I agreed to be interim dean, with every intention of being only an interim and that certainly for no more than two years. When I agreed to become the dean at the end of 2010, I said I would only stay two more years. I have now agreed to yet another year.
Jack Hamilton, also listed as departing, stayed only two years as provost because that was what he agreed to when he took the job. He took the job, though, after he had spent 18 years as dean of the Manship School and did so because of his commitment to LSU. He remains an LSU faculty member. Vice Chancellor Tom Klei, too, took an administrative job he never sought and is returning to the Vet School, where he is a Boyd Professor. I wouldn’t call either of these a “departure” or interpret their decisions as a lack of commitment to LSU. They took on their jobs in the first place out of a sense of duty to the institution.
Several of the other people labeled in the story as departing are really only retiring. Dean of the Library Jennifer Cargill, Dean of Vet Medicine Peter Haynes and Dean of the College of Agriculture Kenneth Koonce have been long-term deans. I can’t fathom serving as dean for as long as Ken has. You would be hard pressed to find any two people who have done more for LSU for as long a time and as well as Bob Kuhn and Robert Doolos.
I lament that we are losing all of these leaders to retirement, but for me the big story is not their departure, but rather their long and able service and commitment to LSU. It says a great deal about them, but it also says much about the strength of the University—particularly so in the case of Bob and Robert, both of whom have degrees from LSU.
I hate to lose their skills — and their company. I do worry about continuity in our administration — that’s one of the reasons I have found myself being a dean longer than I ever imagined. But I, too, realize administrators come and go. So when I look at those pictures on the front page of The Reveille, I see a great deal of loyalty to the University. And with a new president/chancellor and provost in place, I worry less about administrative continuity.
Gaines M. Foster,
College of Humanities and