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Harvard Solicits Nominations for Permanent Winthrop Deans Amid Student Calls to Keep Interim Leaders

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana announced the next stages of the search for new Winthrop House faculty deans in an email to Winthrop residents Tuesday.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana announced the next stages of the search for new Winthrop House faculty deans in an email to Winthrop residents Tuesday. By Delano R. Franklin
By Juliet E. Isselbacher and Declan J. Knieriem, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana announced the next stages of the search for new Winthrop House faculty deans in an email to Winthrop residents Tuesday.

In his email, Khurana said the College would soon begin accepting nominations for faculty dean candidates, a process he called a “critical first step.”

Current interim faculty deans Mark D. Gearan ’78 and Mary Herlihy-Gearan have led the House since August, following the College’s decision to not renew former Winthrop faculty deans Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. and Stephanie R. Robinson’s contract amid a controversy over Sullivan’s decision to represent Hollywood producer and accused sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein.

Gearan and Herlihy-Gearan wrote in an email to Winthrop residents Tuesday that they were “honored” by Khurana’s request to temporarily take over the role, and said their time in Winthrop has been a “special blessing.”

“Our experience has been every bit as rewarding as we had imagined, and we hope that this year has positively moved the House forward,” they wrote. “Getting to know each of you in settings both formal and informal has been the highlight of the year and we will always be grateful for the warm welcome and many extensions of kindness to both of us and our daughters Madeleine and Kathleen.”

Some Winthrop students hoped Gearan and Herlihy-Gearan would continue their stay in the House. A group of Winthrop residents began circulating a petition urging the administration to install the Gearan and Herlihy-Gearan as permanent faculty deans in the fall. Several students said the Gearans greatly improved the culture and morale within the House.

Former Winthrop House Committee chair Fotini Anastopoulos ’20, who helped create the petition, said it garnered support from over half the house’s student body.

“Ever since their start as faculty deans, Winthrop has seen an increase in community, house spirit, and overall living quality. This petition is directed towards the Harvard administration and aims to show how Mark and Mary have become vital to Winthrop residents and have created an inclusive and welcoming home for us all,” the petition read.

College spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in an emailed statement that the Gearans were announced as interim deans who would serve only for the year, referring to an announcement made in the fall about the impending search for new deans.

Anastopoulos said that she was disappointed to hear about the start of the search.

“Everything that they did was for the students, and they were so present and engaged and just loving in every way. So I'm very disappointed that the school decided to not keep them for longer,” she said.

Aside from circulating the petition over the Winthrop House email list, students disseminated flyers throughout the rooms, according to Alexander S. “Sandy” Koenig ’21. He said he was impressed by how Gearan and Herlihy-Gearan improved House culture, citing open houses they hosted and artwork in the hallways they installed.

“Why not just take the opportunity to appoint faculty dean the students already really love and want to have stay in the house?” he said. “The College is missing an opportunity for a total slam dunk here.”

—Staff writer Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at juliet.isselbacher@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @julietissel.

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