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James E. von der Heydt, a resident tutor in Lowell House, has been named Winthrop House’s next Senior Tutor, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 announced Friday in a move that means newcomers will inhabit the House’s top two positions next fall.
Von der Heydt, who will receive his doctorate in English in November will make the move across Mill Street with his wife Margaret, four-month old daughter Elizabeth and 110-pound Newfoundland dog Augustus. He will be taking the place of Courtney B. Lamberth, who announced last month that she was leaving.
Von der Heydt will join incoming masters Stephen P. Rosen and Mandana Sassanfar, who were appointed to replace masters Cynthia Rosenberger and Paul D. Hanson earlier this month.
Lewis announced von der Heydt’s selection in an e-mail to students.
Von der Heydt and others said that while the influx of fresh faces might make the transition difficult, it will be manageable.
“The job will be tougher for both [Rosen and I],” von der Heydt said, but added that his contact with Rosen so far has been positive and he believes they will be up for the challenge. “We’re both going to work very hard,” von der Heydt said.
Lewis wrote in an e-mail that while not ideal, the double switch should not pose any serious problems. “With Dr. von der Heydt having been in Lowell House, I’m sure there will be an easy transition,” Lewis said.
Lowell House residents praised von der Heydt and highlighted a range of contributions he made to the House as English tutor.
“Both Jim and Meg are really wonderful. They’ll bring a range of intellectual interests to the job of senior tutor,” said Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck.
Jesse Stellato ’03, a Lowell resident who was in a section taught by von der Heydt, said the tutor would be missed.
“His knowledge, dedication, and especially great sense of humor make up for the fact he went to Princeton,” joked Stellato. Von der Heydt has been an engaged tutor, Stellato said, helping to edit his and others’ senior theses.
Stellato and Eck both highlighted von der Heydt’s effort in spearheading new bi-weekly senior seminars, where students present and discuss their theses.
“Jim is a very conscientious person who is very concerned about the students under his care,” Lowell House Senior Tutor John L. Ellison wrote in an e-mail. “He is responsive and, I believe, has been one of our best tutors over the years.”
Von der Heydt, who has had little contact with Winthrop tutors and students, said that he plans to start getting to know his new House this week.
He said that “being ready for anything, being flexible and ready to respond with the right kind of strength and the right kind of empathy” will be his biggest challenge next year in a position which he said had much more responsibility than that of resident tutor.
Von der Heydt will have big shoes to fill.
Winthrop House Committee (HoCo) Co-President Peter J. Giordano ’04 said that Lamberth’s departure would be a great loss.
“I don’t think you’ll find anyone in Winthrop House who doesn’t have glowing remarks about Courtney,” Giordano said.
HoCo Co-President Emilie R. Feldman ’04 said she thinks “people are really excited about the new atmosphere that’s going to be promoted by having these new people.”
Von der Heydt is finishing his doctoral work on ocean poetry, while changing diapers for the four-month-old Elizabeth. His wife, whom he met and married in Lowell while they were both resident tutors, is pursuing a post in the Episcopalian church.
The family is one of nicknames, with von der Heydt going by “Jim,” his wife “Meg,” his daughter “Beth” and his dog “Gus.”
Von der Heydt said that he is a believer in college for its own sake, as opposed to a means to an end, and hopes to connect with students to encourage them to take advantage of their time at Harvard in diverse ways.
Von der Heydt, who grew up near Dallas, Texas, said he plans to be a teacher or professor, is currently an advisor to the Gamut poetry review, played lightweight football in college and is an Eagle Scout.
Lewis wrote in an e-mail that he and Rosen had selected von der Heydt for his new position out of “a deep pool of candidates.”
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