Campus News

Decatur to Lead Kenyon College

March 18, 2013

Cynthia Nickoloff

Sean Decatur in his Oberlin lab.
Photo credit: Scott Goldsmith

Sean Decatur, who has served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since July 2008, has accepted the presidency of Kenyon College. He begins his new duties July 1, 2013.

“Oberlin is a wonderful institution,” says Decatur, “and it has been a pleasure to be a part of it. I appreciate the support and opportunity I have received here.”

“Within a short five years, Sean has had a major impact on Oberlin’s curriculum, in building faculty trust and cooperation, and in defining Oberlin as a leading-edge institution for the integrated teaching of the arts, sciences, humanities, and music,” says Alan Wurtzel ’55, a member of the Board of Trustees. “While Oberlin may mourn his departure, we can be proud that he is leaving to head a first rate liberal arts college. His success will help us attract a worthy successor.”

During his tenure at Oberlin, Decatur led efforts to reinforce the rigor of Oberlin’s curricular and co-curricular offerings, an undertaking that resulted in the adoption of a new set of general requirements in the College of Arts and Sciences and an institution-wide course-credit system. He was instrumental in securing funding for initiatives throughout the College of Arts and Sciences, including a $950,000 grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to establish the Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures and an $800,000 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to strengthen teaching and learning of quantitative skills in the natural sciences through course and faculty development and peer-mentoring initiatives focused on deepening student learning of quantitative material. He also was critical to developing and implementing Oberlin's 2008-09 Alfred P. Sloan Faculty Career Flexibility Award, which provided a $200,000 accelerator grant to expand career flexibility options available to faculty.

“Sean is a consensus-building leader whose tireless efforts will have a lasting positive impact on Oberlin students,” says Jason Belitsky, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and HHMI project director. “Most inspiring to me personally has been his continuation of cutting-edge research in his own lab, his commitment to mentoring individual research students, and his vision for the success of all students. Sean’s collaborative leadership style, humility, sense of fairness, and ability to push through difficult challenges will be sorely missed.”

The legacy of Decatur’s five years as dean are evidence of his vision, patience, good faith, and common sense, says Sebastiaan Faber, professor of Hispanic studies. “What makes Sean Decatur such an effective dean is the fact that he has a genuine interest in, and appreciation for, all fields of teaching and scholarship. He listens carefully, has a sharp eye for detail, and a deep care for individuals, while never losing sight of the big picture. As a dean he has been both vision-driven and extraordinarily respectful of procedure—a rare combination indeed. I think it is fair to say he has played a crucial role in restoring the faculty’s and administration’s faith in Oberlin's system of faculty governance.”

“Sean Decatur has done a splendid job as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences,” says Oberlin’s president, Marvin Krislov. “He is a thoughtful, effective leader and a brilliant, analytical thinker. I know he will be an outstanding president at Kenyon College. I’m pleased to be able to welcome him as a new member of the Ohio Five college presidents, and look forward to working with him in that context.”

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