Dennis DeTurck, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will step down from his post at the head of Penn’s largest undergraduate school. The decision was announced in an email on Thursday sent by Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Steven J. Fluharty.
DeTurck, who is a professor of mathematics and the faculty director for Riepe College House, has been this semester. He has been a faculty member at Penn since 1980 and the College dean for twelve years, but he acknowledged that “it was time” to step down from that position.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time,” DeTurck said. “It started to feel like time to stop.” Moving forward, he plans on focusing on his research and teaching full-time.
He said that this decision has been “coming on for a while,” which was why he took the leave of absence this spring.
“This semester, I discovered I still like mathematics,” DeTurck said. “There are still theorems inside of me that would like to get out.”
He noted there are many things he will miss about the position such as the students on the Dean’s Advisory Board and the people at the College Office.
Former Co-Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board Samip Sheth described DeTurck as constantly “supportive and reassuring.” He said that DeTurck attended every Sunday DAB meeting, which “meant a lot” to the students. Sheth, a College senior, also noted that DeTurck attended DAB’s “Deconstructing the Penn Face” event to gain a greater understanding of mental health on-campus.
“He really cared about what was going on that professors might not necessarily see,” Sheth said. “If there is one thing I want to emphasize, it’s that he really cares about students.”
Fluharty said the University has begun to “consult broadly” about candidates for the position of College dean. The position does not lack importance: two-thirds of undergraduate students are enrolled in the College and all students, regardless of their undergraduate affiliation, must take courses within this undergraduate school.
According to Fluharty, Andrew Binns, a biology professor, will remain the interim dean until New Student Orientation. He said that he hopes the university is able to find a new dean before then, however, to have more transition time.
“Having some amount of time for transition would be useful,” Fluharty said. “But, I’m not going to rush this if in any way I think it jeopardizes finding the very best person.”
Both DeTurck and Sheth agreed that, despite stepping down as College dean, DeTurck still has many roles at Penn.
“I will be able to pay more attention to my teaching and that kind of stuff,” DeTurck said. “And I will still live in Riepe, of course, which is always a lot of fun.”
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