Lowell House Resident Dean Ryan M. Spoering stepped down from his position last week to become Harvard's Director of Undergraduate Laboratories, according to Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck. Brett Flehinger, a former preceptor in Harvard’s Expository Writing department, has been picked as the new resident dean.
Spoering, a lecturer in the Chemistry department, spent six years in the Lowell community, including the last four as resident dean. Eck said that Spoering and his wife, Amy, started off in Lowell as chemistry tutors, where he “had a soft-spoken but very active manner.” She said that during the previous resident dean search, she had lobbied for Spoering, who came across "as someone with a very good head on his shoulders and a deep inner compass.”
The news of Spoering's departure comes shortly after Cabot House announced on June 1 that writing tutor Jill Constantino would replace Mya M. Mangawang as resident dean there. Mangawang stepped down abruptly in May after holding the position for only a year.
Eck said that Spoering has "done just a marvelous job” as resident dean. She said he led Lowell’s corps of tutors, made hospital visits in the middle of the night, and made an effort to know every student. Several other Lowellians interviewed by The Crimson this week said that they were sad to see him go.
Elizabeth G. Terry, the Lowell House administrator, worked with Spoering throughout his time as tutor and dean and described him as “compassionate and judicious."
“He created an atmosphere of trust and calm, and is a terrific collaborator,” Terry said.
Anthony R. Britt '10, who worked with Spoering in his time on the House Committee and Undergraduate Council, said that Spoering is “always smiling and very approachable.” Britt recalled that one time, he e-mailed Spoering the night before cross-registration paperwork was due for courses at the Kennedy and Divinity Schools, and Spoering worked with him very early the next morning to meet the deadline.
In an interview, Spoering said that he and his family already miss the Lowell community, but that he is planning to remain a member of the Lowell senior common room.
The search for a new resident dean was initiated after Spoering decided to accept the position of Director of Undergraduate Laboratories, Eck said, and was conducted by Assistant Dean of Residential Life Catherine Shapiro, along with Eck, Co-House Master Dorothy A. Austin, Spoering, and other members of the Lowell senior staff.
Flehinger said in an interview with the Crimson that he had been interested in the position for some time, but that he finally decided to apply after a discussion with one of his students this past year about community at Harvard.
“Lowell seemed like a unique opportunity to have both a social and academic community rolled together,” Flehinger said, adding that he would seek to forge “long-term, durable relationships with students.” Eck said she recognized that intention during the interview process, noting that Flehinger saw the position as a vocation, rather than something he would do for a year or two.
Flehinger received his bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley and earned a Ph.D. in History from Harvard in 1997. He has taught Expository Writing at Harvard since fall 2006, and served as a lecturer and assistant director of undergraduate studies in the history department.
Come fall, Lowell will be home to Flehinger and his family, which includes his wife, Suzanne; a son, soon to be 11; and Jacques Derridag—a chiwawa and corgi mix named after the deceased French philosopher Jacques Derrida. He also has a 21-year-old son at Skidmore College, whom Eck says could give Flehinger additional expertise in relating to students' needs.
Flehinger received Harvard’s Levenson Award for outstanding teaching in 2001, an honor that Eck said stood out during the resident dean application process and showed that he had a "strong and vibrant" connection with students. Eric C. LeMay, the former Head Preceptor in the Expository Writing Department, said he shared an office with Flehinger, who was "enthusiastic and energetic to the marrow."
And students who took Flehinger’s course Expository Writing 20, "Democracy in America," this past spring echoed those sentiments.
"[Flehinger] creates a classroom environment that is fiercely intellectual, yet casual and familiar at the same time," said Maxwell L. Meyer '12. "Lowell House should be celebrating his arrival."
—Staff writer Molly M. Strauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.