In an all-campus e-mail sent Friday, President Falk announced that he has appointed Peter Murphy, professor of English and department chair, and Will Dudley ’89, professor of philosophy, to serve as the new dean of faculty and provost, respectively.
Murphy and Dudley will assume their positions on July 1, when the terms of current Dean of Faculty Bill Wagner and Provost Bill Lenhart come to an end.
“The process of choosing the new dean of faculty and provost included extensive consultation with faculty and others across the College,” Falk said. “The Faculty Steering Committee was a critical partner in this process. They spoke with many, many faculty over a period of a number of weeks, and they gave me very thoughtful recommendations reflecting both these conversations and their own views.”
After meeting with some of the standout candidates himself, Falk eventually settled on Murphy and Dudley as “the most compelling faculty to fill these roles. Both of them have extensive experience at Williams going back many years and bring student-oriented perspectives as faculty.”
Dean Sarah Bolton commended Falk’s choices. “They’re both such interesting people with such depths of experience,” she said. “I look forward to collaborating with both of them. The three of us represent all three divisions, and we have taken a variety of paths at the College. I think we’ll be able to put our heads together for our respective roles and also for more general College issues.”
“I simply couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of working with them in the years to come,” Falk added. “Bill Wagner and Bill Lenhart have served with extraordinary distinction over the past five years, and Peter and Will certainly have enormous shoes to fill. I’m confident they’ll do so.”
Dean of Faculty
Murphy has served as dean of the College from 1995-00, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Departments and Programs, and member of the Faculty Steering Committee, the Faculty Review Panel and the Multicultural Center Advisory Committee. He has also served as English department chair for the past three and a half years.
Murphy expressed his appreciation and excitement about the position. “I love the group of people that make up the senior staff, and I’m really looking forward to working with Adam [Falk],” he said.
“To be dean of faculty having been dean of the College will give [Murphy] great insight,” Bolton said. “He’s a superb thinker who cares a great deal about the College.”
Murphy’s main goal is to learn and execute the responsibilities of the office into which he’s now stepping. “It’s important that the business of [the office of dean of faculty] be reliable and helpful,” he said. “I want to keep the office functioning as well as it’s already been functioning.” He added that Wagner has been an “exemplary dean” for him as English department chair.
Despite having left an administrative position 10 years ago, Murphy said that “it’s a good moment for me to go back into it … Being chair of the English department, I’ve developed a lot of expertise in areas related to the faculty. I’m interested in those issues and excited about working on them in a broader way.”
Murphy is supportive of Falk’s senior staff realignment and excited to be a part of the transition. “The purpose of the changes is to free up the faculty members to do their work more effectively and carry out the goals of faculty governance more directly,” he said. Murphy also assuaged fears about the new system: “I don’t think there’s any danger of faculty governance being diminished, and I know [Falk] is committed to those goals as well,” he said.
Part of the Murphy’s transition to dean of faculty will involve stepping down as English department chair on Feb. 1. “I need the time to attend a lot of meetings to just see what happens and get used to the rhythms of the office,” he said. Professor of English John Limon will succeed Murphy as department chair.
In addition to being a graduate of the College, Dudley has served as chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Life (CUL) and member of the Committee on Educational Policy, the Faculty Interview Panel and the Committee on Diversity and Community. He is a current member of the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and he was exposed to finance earlier in his career at the global energy firm AES Corporation.
Dudley also expressed his excitement about the new position. “My interest in administration has grown naturally,” he said. “From being a professor since 1998, chairing the CUL and teaching a class with [former] President Schapiro, I’ve come to care about the whole College.”
Dudley will be the first provost to collaborate with the new vice president for finance and administration, the search for whom is still ongoing. Dudley has a firm understanding of what the provost will now be doing as well as how he will work with his new partner. “The provost is responsible for making sure the College allocates its resources in order to advance its educational interests,” he said. “Put simply, the VP for finance and administration tracks how much money is available, and the provost decides what to spend that money on.”
Additionally, Dudley mentioned that the provost has already had to work as part of a group. “The provost works in conjunction with a large group of faculty, staff and students,” he said. “The Committee on Priorities and Resources is key, as is the Advisory Group of Admission and Financial Aid.”
Falk also seemed positive about the new partnership. “In appointing the new provost, I looked for someone who would partner effectively with the new VP for finance and administration to craft the working relationship between their offices,” he said. “With Will’s long and rich experience with the College – and, as it happens, his exposure to finance early in his career – he will bring the idea background to this collaborative work.”
“I was a philosophy and math major at Williams, and the new provost position fits that blend perfectly,” Dudley said. In recent decades, provosts have almost always come from the economics departments or one of the science departments.
“Indeed, the suitability of a humanities professor as provost was one of the exciting possibilities opened up by the reorganization of senior staff,” Falk said.
“It’s an interesting evolution of the provost’s role,” Bolton said. “[Dudley] is a philosopher, and I think he’ll have a broad strategic perspective. The ability to reach out beyond traditional pools of faculty demonstrates one of the strengths of President Falk’s realignment.”