When President Derek C. Bok appointed Joseph L. Henry interim dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine earlier this month, outgoing Dean Paul Goldhaber could not have been more pleased.
"I was delighted [by the appointment] because he is the best person for the job," Goldhaber said of Henry, who is currently associate dean for government and community affairs and chair of the department of oral diagnosis and oral radiology at the Dental School.
And Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Daniel C. Tosteson '44 said, "I am delighted that Joe Henry has agreed to assist the School of Dental Medicine by accepting the position of acting dean. He will provide the school with the able and experienced leadership necessary in this interim period."
On July 1, Henry will replace the retiring dean Goldhaber, who will take a one-year sabbatical before returning to the Dental School to teach and do research. Henry, who will serve as dean until a permanent dean is appointed, said the transition may take as long as a year.
Henry, who is 66 years old but said he feels like 39, is hailed by his colleagues as an efficient administrator who is good at working with people and knows the Dental School inside and out.
Goldhaber said Henry has the experience necessary to keep the Dental School running at peak efficiency while pursuing the goals of the previous administration.
Henry said his goals include training leaders in the dental profession and expanding the school's postdoctoral programs.
But he added that he will not undertake any major projects during his tenure as interim dean.
"Generally, an interim dean does not start any bold new initiatives, because he will not be there to see them through," Henry said.
But Goldhaber said any projects Henry does undertake will undoubtedly be successful. Goldhaber described Henry as his "deputy," his closest associate since Henry became the Dental School's first Black professor in 1975.
"Doctor Henry is probably the most knowledgeable person in the building regarding the inner workings of the institution," Goldhaber said.
Henry said he believes he was chosen for the post because of his experience.
"I think [Bok was] looking for someone with experience, someone who knows what the missions and goals are, who the players are and how to motivate them," he said.
Henry, who is also a nationally distinguished bridge player, has done his share of player motivation at Harvard. Henry organized a self-evaluation program which won the Dental School reaccrediation twice. "This was a fantastic administrative task. Each time, I could depend on him doing his job," Goldhaber said.
Henry's colleagues at the Dental School agree that he is very good at working with people.
"He is the kind of person who has eight cookie jars open in his office all the time," said Richard W. Valachovic, who has worked with Henry in the oral diagnosis and oral radiology department for the last 10 years.
Henry said he does not consider himself a candidate for the position of permanent dean. And Dental School faculty members said Henry's appointment as interim dean does not provide any clues to who the permanent dean will be.
"I think the President was looking for somebody who was well acquainted with our very unique program," Valachovic said.
Henry said Bok will decide what goals are most important for the Dental School and will appoint a search committee to find someone who can achieve those goals. Henry said Bok will likely consider both in-house and outside candidates.
"I'm confident [Bok will] be looking for a scholar, someone who is very familiar with the expectations of this school, someone who is a good fundraiser and someone who can motivate faculty," Henry said.