History Professor Catherine Epstein to be new Dean of the Faculty

January 27, 2014

President Biddy Martin announced today that Catherine Epstein, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History at Amherst College, has been selected to be the college’s new Dean of the Faculty, effective July 1. 

Catherine Epstein, Associate Professor of History

Catherine Epstein

“In addition to her distinction as a scholar, her outstanding teaching and her service to the College, Catherine also brings to the position a broad view of the deanship, a passionate belief in the importance of the liberal arts and a commitment to Amherst that will make her an outstanding leader of our faculty,” President Biddy Martin said. “We will benefit from her wide-ranging intellect, her interest in the full range of disciplines and administrative functions at the College, her ability to listen and the clarity with which she sees and explains complex issues. I look forward to the opportunity to work with her.” 

Epstein will replace Gregory Call, the Peter R. Pouncey Professor of Mathematics, who has served as dean since 2003.

“Greg has been responsible for strengthening the academic quality of the College in every conceivable way, ensuring that Amherst faculty members at Amherst flourish during all stages of their careers,” Martin said.  

Epstein was selected from a number of candidates for a position that serves as the college's chief academic officer.  She will have primary responsibility for matters of academic policy that involve the faculty. Epstein said she looked forward to serving as the college’s new Dean of the Faculty and to working closely with the college’s new provost, Peter Uvin.

“I’m delighted to take on this position,” Epstein said. “I can’t tell you how honored I am to be asked to serve as the Dean of the Faculty. I’m thrilled to work with Biddy Martin and Peter Uvin to make Amherst College all that it can be.”

Epstein identified a number of immediate goals, including further strengthening support for faculty research and teaching initiatives at the College, being responsive to faculty and staff  needs, and working with faculty to enhance work-life balance issues at the College.

“Amherst has a strong tradition of faculty governance,” she said. “I see the Dean of the Faculty’s office as a linchpin in that system. I will work hard to ensure that the faculty’s voice is heard on all educational issues.”   

“It will be very hard to fill Greg Call’s shoes,” Epstein added. “I am very grateful for all the terrific work he has done. As a faculty member, I have personally benefited from many of his initiatives.”

Epstein holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and has taught modern European history at Amherst College since 2000. She is the author of three books, including the prize-winning Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. She is now finishing a textbook, Nazi Germany: Confronting the Myths

Epstein is also very active in the historical profession. For the past decade she has served as Associate Editor of Central European History; she commissions all book reviews and review essays for the premier journal in her field. Epstein was recently elected by the membership of the American Historical Association to serve on the Association’s 15-member governing board. She serves as a Councilor on the Professional Division, the unit that works on ethical issues facing the historical profession.  

Locally, Epstein is active in Jewish institutions. Since 2008 she has served on the Board of Lander-Grinspoon Academy, the Solomon Schechter School of the Pioneer Valley. She also chairs the UMass Hillel Ride-to-Provide event, an annual bike ride that supports Hillel’s community service projects.

Epstein's husband, Daniel Gordon, is Interim Dean of the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The couple has three children: Nate, a high school sophomore; Dora, a seventh grader; and Stella, a second grader. 

The search was conducted by a faculty committee chaired by John Servos, the Anson D. Morse Professor of History, and included Professors Amrita Basu, the Domenic J. Paino 1955 Professor of Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies; Sandra Burkett, associate professor of chemistry; Michael Hood, associate professor of biology; and David Schneider, professor of music.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Catherine since she joined the faculty, and she has been a superb colleague over those years,” Servos said. “She is known for her good humor, her imagination in the classroom, her thoughtful mentoring of junior colleagues and her extraordinary productivity as a scholar. She’s been a marvelous department chair for us over the past two years.”

The committee’s charge, based upon feedback from the entire faculty, was to conduct an internal search that included current faculty members as well as scholars who are no longer at Amherst but who knew it well by virtue of having spent considerable time on the college's faculty.  

The search committee consulted faculty and administrators, seeking views about the nature of the position, the structure of the Office of the Dean, and possible nominations for the position, interviewing a number of them before presenting President Martin with a list of three unranked names.

“Catherine is wonderfully well-suited at this point in the College’s history to work with other members of the administration, and with the faculty, staff and students at Amherst to ensure that we remain positioned to lead the way in residential liberal arts education,” Martin said.

About Amherst College

Founded in 1821, Amherst is a highly selective, coeducational liberal arts college with 1,800 students from most of the 50 states and more than 30 other countries. Considered one of the nation’s best educational institutions, Amherst awards the B.A. degree in 37 fields of study. Sixty percent of Amherst students receive need-based financial aid.  

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