Cabot House Masters Say Adieu

Jay M. Harris
Jay M. Harris By Jessica E. Schumer

Does no one want to be a House Master anymore?  Three days ago, Eliot House Masters Lino Pertile and Anna Bernsted announced that they will be stepping down after a 10-year tenure.  Today, in an e-mail to their House open list, Cabot House Masters Jay M. Harris and Cheryl L. Harris said their good-byes.

"Cabot deserves better than we feel we can give it at this time, and so we think it is best that we step aside and allow the College to bring in some new blood," Harris wrote.

We almost fell out of our chairs. Et tu, Jay? But why? We analyze the e-mail, after the jump.

Harris wrote that commitments to his position as the Dean of Undergraduate Education, as well as his wife Cheryl's work, would interfere with their ability to "do the job the way we think it ought to be done."

Fair enough. But do we also detect some bizarre emo-ness here?

"Back in the fall of 2002, Jay was asked if he was interested in being a Master; he, of course, brought the question home to Cheryl for deliberation. Neither of us really knew what the job entailed, and the effort to find out from those who had served or were serving as Masters was not all that revealing." Harris trying to tell us that they weren't exactly crazy for the job in the first place? Sure, he said they eventually came to love their work. But that makes us wonder what this line really means: "We would not know how to describe it to our successors, other than to advise them to hang on for the ride of their lives."

In the rest of the e-mail, Harris thanked the Cabot community for providing "us with far more than we could ever provide you." Lovely, typical stuff. But the last paragraph, which contains shout-outs to various Cabot administrators and personnel, is perplexing.

"Finally, there is Susan, who, like Fidel Castro, outlasts them all. No one is more devoted to the House than she, and we are grateful for all that she has done for all of us during our time at Cabot."

We want to know the story behind this. Is there another reason that House Administrator Susan Livingston, besides her 28-year tenure, was compared to a dictator that the world just can't seem to get rid of?  Guess we non-Cabot residents just don't get it.

You can find out more at

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