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Mather Faculty Deans to Retire in June

By Graham W. Bishai, Crimson Staff Writer

Mather House Faculty Deans Christie McDonald and Michael D. Rosengarten announced Friday morning that they will resign their positions in June 2017, coinciding with McDonald’s retirement from her role on the Faculty.

“I am retiring in June as a faculty member. And that prompts retiring as a Faculty Dean,” McDonald said in an interview Friday.

In an email sent to Mather residents, McDonald and Rosengarten expressed gratitude for their time leading the House, and highlighted increases in House resources and programming during their tenure.

McDonald and Rosengarten were appointed to the positions formerly known as House masters of Mather House in 2010, and will retire having served in the role for seven years. McDonald is a professor of French Language and Literature and of Comparative Literature, and is a renowned expert on French literature from the 18th century and 20th century. Rosengarten, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist, is an associate professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

Reflecting on their nearing retirement, McDonald and Rosengarten said their time as Faculty Deans was very positive. “I’ve been an engineer, I’ve been a doctor, I’ve been a cardiologist, I’ve been an associate dean, but being a Faculty Dean was the best of all,” Rosengarten said.

“And me, I’ve never left school because I’ve been a professor all my life,” McDonald said.

Each pair of Faculty Deans oversees one of Harvard’s 12 undergraduate residential Houses. They are responsible for House life, hiring tutors, and the well-being of undergraduates. During their tenure, McDonald and Rosengarten oversaw the implementation of a “Fast Pass” program making it easier for students to register parties in Mather, and piloted a sophomore orientation program to help integrate the House’s newest members.

McDonald and Rosengarten said promoting inclusion and diversity have been paramount priorities as Faculty Deans.

“Our largest concern for some time has been the issue of race and diversity. We’ve tried some new ways of dealing with it, but we feel that that’s really important to protect our students, you know, whatever their diversity is, and it's been quite gratifying to do that,” Rosengarten said.

The Faculty Deans also used their retirement announcement as an opportunity to advocate for greater inclusion and respect following the rancorous 2016 presidential election.

“This fall has been a difficult time in our nation through a campaign that has not only been acrimonious but emboldened rhetoric and acts of hate. We at Mather feel a special responsibility to support all of our students, tutors and staff, and to protect a respectful and inclusive community that is home to all who live and work here,” the email said.

McDonald and Rosengarten cited Mather House’s people and architecture as their favorite part of their time as deans.

“We love our concrete. But the main thing is the people that make up the community,” Rosengarten said.

Many students expressed surprise at the announcement and said they would miss the deans in their absence.

“I’m definitely sad to see them go,” Melonie N. Vaughn ’19 said. “Pretty much everyone in Mather is probably going to agree that they were a really important part of the Mather community and it’s going to be really different without them.”

Prior to Rosengarten and McDonald’s announcement, the most recent Faculty Deans to step down were Currier House leaders Richard W. Wrangham and Elizabeth A. Ross last fall.

McDonald and Rosengarten said that once their replacements were selected, they would help make their transition as smooth as possible.

“We’re going to try as hard as we can to support the new incoming Faculty Deans and also support our tutors that are going through the transition so the community survives,” Rosengarten said. “The concrete will survive, but we want the community to survive, too.”

—Staff writer Graham W. Bishai can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GrahamBishai.

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