Theology professor Chester Gillis was named interim dean of Georgetown College for one year yesterday, filling the post that will be vacated by current Dean Jane McAuliffe on July 1.

University Provost James O’Donnell said that Georgetown will launch a nationwide search for a permanent dean this summer.

Gillis, a faculty member since 1988 and chair of the theology department from 2001 to 2006, currently holds the Joseph and Winifred Amaturo Chair in Catholic Studies.

O’Donnell said that Gillis fits the needs of the College.

“We worked quietly and confidentially in selecting an interim dean of the College with an emphasis on efficiency,” he said. “[Gillis] is someone with credibility in the College, bringing intelligence, experience, integrity and familiarity to the role. He will work on a variety of academic issues, including recruiting new faculty.”

Gillis expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity while also acknowledging that it will take time to get accustomed to the new role.

“I suspect the first few months will be like drinking from a fire hose,” he joked in an interview yesterday.

Gillis admitted that the position to which he has been appointed is a time-consuming one and said he will therefore most likely take a one-year hiatus from teaching.

“This new position requires all of the skills of an academic in addition to outstanding time management skills and sensitivity to the public,” he said. “I plan to attend to the matter at hand.”

He said he will shadow McAuliffe throughout the remainder of the year to assist in his transition into the new role, which will be effective when McAuliffe steps out on July 1.

Gillis reiterated that he is determined to maintain and enhance the trajectory of McAuliffe’s work, particularly in the continued pursuit of resources such as top faculty, financial resources and student talent. Attracting and maintaining the best faculty, securing consistent financial backing and accepting qualified students, he said, will be his top priorities.

According to O’Donnell, the search process for a permanent dean will be coordinated primarily through his office and will seek student input.

“The search process will follow the standard pattern, but there will be significant student engagement,” he said. “The president and Office of the Provost will not simply disappear into a back room throughout the search.”

He said he expects the search process to take roughly one year and hopes to have a permanent dean in place by April 2009. He said the committee will consider candidates from inside and outside the university, with no bias toward either.

O’Donnell said McAuliffe has set the bar high for her successor, noting the increased development of the arts and natural sciences during her tenure.

“The two main criteria for the permanent dean of the College are the abilities to walk on water and leap small buildings in a single jump,” O’Donnell said.

In addition, O’Donnell said the search for a new dean offers the university an opportunity to evaluate the College and its goals to continue McAuliffe’s legacy.

“[The university can] take a deep breath and ask what particular skills and personnel are required to achieve the goals of the next five years,” he said.

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