The Agreeable Mr. Illingworth

During Archie C. Epps III's first semester as dean of students in 1970, the young administrator radically restructured the independent study program and mediated a contentious race-related dispute, in addition to presenting disciplinary cases against students involved in the University Hall takeover the year before.

This semester has been much quieter for David P. Illingworth '71, the new associate dean of the College who has assumed most of Epps' responsibilities after Epps' retirement last year.

Students praise Illingworth as an approachable, responsive figure.


But Illingworth acknowledges he has not embarked on any single major project to improve undergraduate life at Harvard--and has no concrete policy plans for the upcoming semester.

"It's too early," he says.

Indeed, one semester after becoming the second most visible face in the College administration, Illingworth seems to hold a very different view of his role than his predecessor did.

Whereas Epps disagreed with Lewis publicly about the nature and aim of Harvard's undergraduate education and threw his weight behind projects Lewis opposed, Illingworth says he will not play the role of dissenting voice within the administration.

It's All About the Team

If Illingworth has thus far played a supporting role in the administration, never publicly disagreeing with Lewis, this seems in part to be a result of the new administrative structure.

The change--from having a dean of students to having an associate dean of the College for extracurricular activities--is one Lewis says was intended to reflect a changed administrative structure that was already becoming a reality. Indeed, Lewis says that Illingworth has largely the same responsibilities that Epps once had.

But Epps and Illingworth envision their jobs and authority differently.

Even though both Lewis and Illingworth say they work collaboratively, at the end of the day, Illingworth acknowledges Lewis is the boss.

"[Lewis] can trump me--that's a part of working for someone," Illingworth says. Illingworth praises the "team approach" of the College administration and says he doesn't particularly want to strike out on his own.

"I am not, nor do I want to be, a lone ranger," he says. "I don't see myself operating in opposition to [Lewis], nor do I want to."

In contrast, while Epps also worked under the Dean of the College, he viewed his position as permitting him to pursue his own agenda.

"I was a free-ranging citizen who spoke with whomever needed to be spoken with," he says.

He prided himself on his independent thought.

"I come out of the tradition of the solitary dean," Epps said last year. "I come from a generation where there's a lot to be said for muddling through and being open and not necessarily getting everything right."

Sharing the Lewis Vision

Authority aside, Illingworth says he is ideologically committed to Lewis' vision of the College.

He says he's agreed with Lewis on all substantive issues this semester. And while he cautions that the time may come when he and Lewis disagree, he doesn't predict any disagreements in the near future.

While Epps disagreed with Lewis about the College's role in social life, Illingworth says he shares Lewis' hands-off approach.

"I worry about major issues of stress, but I don't worry a lot about issues of social life," he says.

Unlike Epps, Illingworth has not challenged Lewis' opposition to a student center.

And Illingworth is wary of expressing his own vision for where the College should be heading.

"I think it would show poor judgement to come up now with an overarching philosophy. This is me at the beginning, [Epps] is speaking at the end," he says, referring to his predecessor's often controversial pronouncements.

Illingworth says one reason he has been so tied to Lewis is out of necessity: He doesn't yet have the know-how to strike out on his own.

"In 6 months on the job, I'm realizing that there is a lot I don't know," he says.

Yet, in contrast to Illingworth's low-key semester, Lewis' first few months were rife with controversy.

He implemented the controversial housing randomization policy and restructured Phillips Brooks House (PBH), bringing in a new associate dean who was unpopular with PBH student leaders at the time.

And while Illingworth has spent only six months in his latest position, he is a seasoned Harvard administrator. He spent his undergraduate years at the College and has worked at the University since 1981, when he first started in the admissions office.

Lewis says that Illingworth knows Harvard as well as anyone.

"[Illingworth] brings a lot of strengths to the position, in my opinion...such as his institutional knowledge, as well as his long contact with undergraduates," he says.

Indeed, members of the search committee that selected Illingworth for the job said his familiarity with Harvard was one of the reasons he was chosen for the post.

"I find him a very intelligent, thoughtful person who knows the College very, very well," Georgene B. Herschbach, head of the search committee and associate dean of the College for finance and administration said last year.

Furthermore, Illingworth is committed to Lewis as an associate and an admirer, not just as a new colleague.

He knew Lewis socially before he got the job--which Lewis offered him over breakfast, in keeping with the favorable recommendations of the search committee.

And Illingworth proclaims himself an admirer of the dean.

"Harry Lewis was the most important reason I took this job," Illingworth says. "I wanted to work with him, be in on his thinking, his vision of what this College should be."

A Different Style

But if Illingworth has not earned the love of students through controversial stands, he has still been well received by the student body. Students say he is personable and easy to approach. He takes their concerns seriously.

"One of the very first things that we asked him to do was to resurrect the student-faculty committee on campus safety," says Undergraduate Council representative Michael D. Shumsky '01, explaining the committee was reconvened in short order.

Illingworth says instead of striking out on his own, he spends much of his time trying to facilitate communication within the Harvard community.

"I try to get people to have a discussion," he says. "I'll tell someone, 'you need to go talk to so-and-so.' "

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