Dean Epps Steps Down After 26 Years

Harvard's longest serving dean of students, Archie C. Epps III, announced this year that he will step down from his post and, through black tie celebrations and fond letters, students have lined up to pay tribute to the retiring dean.

Over 200 students, faculty members and well-wishers attended a farewell dinner held at the elegant Loeb House to praise him for his work during the 28 years he served as dean of students.

Epps will be Harvard's last dean of students, as a new organizational hierarchy that gives most of Epps' responsibilities to a newly created position of associate dean for student activities. David P. Illingworth '71, who currently works in the University's financial aid office, was recently chosen to fill the position.

At the end of Epps' tenure, it seems Illingworth has a tough legacy to live up to. Although Epps was sometimes a controversial figure on campus, the outpouring of appreciation for him since he announced his resignation has been overwhelming.

"Students that have interacted with him are genuinely appreciative of what he's done for the student body," said Undergraduate Council President Noah Z. Seton '00. "Whether you agree with him or disagree with him on any issue, when you hear an opinion from Dean Epps, that's something of value."


Forgive and Forget

Things have not always gone this smoothly for the dapper, contemplative dean who has served as the most visible link between students and the administration through both good times and bad.

Epps came to be a symbol of Harvard's conservatism when, as an assistant dean of the College, he resisted the protestors who forced administrators out of University Hall in the 1969 takeover. He was later one of the three University affiliates who presented disciplinary casesagainst the students involved.

He also provoked protest from some students byattacking the College's final clubs for theirrefusal to admit women and their loose alcoholpolicies.

And his handling of race-related issues--inwhich he has played a significant role since hebecame Harvard's only prominent blackadministrator in 1963--has also beencontroversial.

During his time at the College, Epps shaped andreshaped the administrative structures that dealwith race, most recently by putting into place asystem of race relations tutors in the Houses andhelping create the Harvard Foundation forIntercultural and Race Relations.

He has also been a vocal opponent of amulticultural student center--once widely soughtafter by leaders of minorityorganizations--because he said he feared separatespaces would lead to racial separatism.

But some minority activists said Epps' workmerely gave administrators something to point toin response to complaints about race relations.

In 1992, after a dispute over the plans of theBlack Students Association (BSA) to bringcontroversial Afro-centrist speaker LeonardJeffries to campus, BSA President Zaheer R. Ali'94 charged that Epps was being used by theadministration to "keep the students in check."

But while Epps' sometimes articulated unpopularstances on behalf of the administration, he alsorepresented students' concerns to administrators.

"He was an interpreter of students to all ofus," former University President Derek C. Bok saidin November.

Recommended Articles