Nestled in a sunny section of University Hall, the office of Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III overlooks the center of Harvard Yard. On the 25th anniverary of his appointment as dean, the view of Widener Library and Memorial Church from Epps' window is a reminder that the College's original planners believed wise leadership would join the twin pillars of intellectual achievement and religious belief to form the foundations of an enlightened University.
Although he arrived at Harvard in 1958 to study religion, Epps has devoted his life to helping students navigate the College. Institutional philosophy has changed--most students today have come to worship only at Henry Elkins Widener's monolithic memorial--but Epps has maintained his belief in the role of the benevolent administrator.
"Early on, I personally decided I was going to represent the best of Harvard College," says Epps.
In his 25th year as dean of students, Epps has not forgotten this initial creed. As his son Josiah, a sophomore in Mather House, observes, "He loves Harvard. It gave him an opportunity to do what he loves, and it is an institution [that] stands for excellence."
Epps was born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a small city 160 miles from Houston, Texas; but he has found his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"He was made to be the dean of students," says Josiah. Many at Harvard now see him as the "grand old man" of University Hall, as Associate Dean for Academic Planning Laura G. Fisher says.
It is Epps' tenure and style that have made him the most recognizable member of the administration.
"There are other Harvard administrators [who have been around as long as my father], but if a Harvard alumnus sees him they'll come and say hello. He can connect them and he can remember them," says Josiah. "It has happened on the top of the Alps, and it happens all the time in London."
An Unmistakable Presence
In 1970, then-president Nathan M. Pusey '28 appointed Epps dean of students, and he has occupied that post ever since. He has, many of his colleagues say, defined the office and brought his own unique style to University Hall.
"He is a character," says Thomas A. Dingman '67, associate dean for human resources and the house system. "He'll sometimes burst into song. On the worst March day, Archie will appear with a flower in his lapel."
A neighbor in University Hall, Dingman remembers fondly Epps' spontaneous teas. "He has always been adept at bringing some civility to the office," Dingman says.
Josiah Epps ventures an explanation for his father's unmistakable character. "Having that Southern part of you just slows everything down," he says.
Epps is cited by colleagues for his dedication to students.
"He [is] a good dean because he [is] one of those people who grew older without losing an understanding of what it meant to be young," says Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus John Kenneth Galbraith, who was the Epps family's neighbor for 20 years.
By Any Other Name: The Title May Change, but Will the Job Get Done?When Archie C. Epps III retires on July 1, Harvard will say good-bye to more than the longest serving dean
Dean Epps Steps Down After 26 YearsHarvard's longest serving dean of students, Archie C. Epps III, announced this year that he will step down from his
Four Years After Trying Term, Lewis Content to Work Behind the ScenesHarry R. Lewis '68 burst into the position of dean of the College four years ago with a series of
The Agreeable Mr. IllingworthDuring Archie C. Epps III's first semester as dean of students in 1970, the young administrator radically restructured the independent
Memoirs in the Works, Epps Turns a New PageEven though he's no longer personally responsible for all of Harvard's undergraduates, Archie C. Epps III can't seem to get
Epps Takes On Race Relations With New VisionDean of Students Archie C. Epps III leans back in his arm chair, tweaks his trademark bow tie, and sighs.