Judith and Sean Palfrey Appointed Adams House Masters

Taking a breather from Easter dinner preparations yesterday afternoon, Judith S. and John G. "Sean" Palfrey relived the moment they learned they would become the new masters of Adams House.

In a telephone call just before the start of spring break, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 tapped the two professors of pediatric medicine to fill the shoes of outgoing Adams House Co-Masters Robert J. Kiely '60 and Jana M. Kiely, who are stepping down after 24 years as heads of the House.

"I was thrilled and felt [like I was] on top of the world," said Judith Palfrey '67, who learned of the appointment in her office at Children's Hospital in Boston. Palfrey is Brazelton professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and lived in North House--now Pforzheimer--as an undergraduate.

Her husband, Sean Palfrey '67, is clinical professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine and lived in Eliot House during his days at the College.

According to Judith Palfrey, she and her husband--who met in a physics class as College undergraduates--had long hoped for the chance to serve as masters and were among the pool of candidates considered last year for masters openings in Lowell and Leverett Houses.

She said their two sons, John G. Palfrey '94 and Quentin A. Palfrey '96, originally encouraged them to throw their hats into the ring. But their discussions with other currently serving masters, Palfrey said, convinced them that this would be an ideal job.

"We've been told that this will be the best time of our lives," she said.

The Palfreys will join Cabot House Masters, Academic Dean at the School of Public Health James H. Ware and Co-Master and Instructor in Psychology Janice Ware, as the only House masters unaffiliated with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The pair acknowledges that working "across the river" has meant that few undergraduates are familiar with the Palfrey name. Yet the Palfrey family has played an influential role throughout Harvard's history, beginning in 1815 when John G. Palfrey, one of Sean Palfrey's forefathers, graduated from the College.