Carleton’s next Dean of the College

5 April 2021

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

I am delighted to announce that Professor of Chemistry Gretchen Hofmeister ’85 has agreed to serve as Dean of the College during the 2021-22 academic year.  Gretchen, who has been serving with great distinction and effectiveness as Associate Dean of the College since 2016, will assume her new duties on July 1, following Bev Nagel’s retirement.

It is a particular joy to be able to fill a key leadership position with one of “Carleton’s own and best”—especially when naming a prominent faculty member to serve as the College’s chief academic officer.  As I have previously observed, the working relationship between the President and the Dean is the most important dyad at the College.  With Professor Hofmeister as Dean next year, I am certain that we have found a superb partner for Carleton’s incoming President.

As the alumni numbers appended to her name indicate, Gretchen received a superb undergraduate education here at Carleton, graduating magna cum laude.  She then earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley before embarking upon a career as a teacher/scholar.  Following post-doctoral appointments at both Berkeley and MIT, Gretchen taught Chemistry at Gustavus Adolphus College for seven years before being “called home” to Carleton as an Associate Professor in 2002.  She was subsequently promoted to full Professor in 2013.

An organic chemist, Dr. Hofmeister studies the mechanisms of organocatalysis reactions that produce “handed” compounds in pure form.  These reactions are particularly important in pharmaceutical synthesis.  She has made a point of regularly involving students in her research, which has been supported over the years by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund and the National Science Foundation.  A gifted, creative, and caring teacher, Gretchen has developed and delivered courses in introductory and advanced organic chemistry, as well as lab courses in inorganic chemistry and the spectrometric characterization of compounds.

In 2016, Dean Nagel tapped Dr. Hofmeister to serve as Associate Dean of the College, with particular responsibility for the development of the annual budget and academic facilities projects.  Her significant achievements in this role include successful oversight of the enormously complicated design, construction, and renovation of our interdisciplinary science complex, including Evelyn M. Anderson Hall.  This past year, she has been a mainstay of Carleton’s COVID-19 Core Planning Team, where her rare combination of wisdom and practicality have made it possible to deliver excellent instruction to students and support our faculty in the midst of the pandemic.

Because Gretchen is already so well-known and so highly respected across campus, in seeking to inspire confidence about what lies ahead there is no need to offer hopeful assurances that a new dean has sterling values and will be a wonderful addition to our community.  Instead, I can happily point to the integrity, empathy, vision, humbling work ethic, and deep commitment to academic excellence we have repeatedly seen suffuse all that Gretchen undertakes.    

In these respects, she follows in the same distinguished line as her predecessor, Bev Nagel.  Our debt of gratitude to Bev for superb service and leadership as Dean these past 12 years is profound.  As opposed to large shoes to fill, Bev leaves seven-league boots! 

And speaking of gratitude, I also want to  express my thanks for the guidance, counsel, and input that an advisory group of faculty leaders—Carol Donelan, Clara Hardy, Liz Raleigh, and Jeff Ondich—has provided Bev and me in considering this decanal appointment.  Consulting with these estimable folks has been a privilege and a pleasure.

Again, please join me in congratulating our new Dean of the College, Gretchen Hofmeister.

Steve Poskanzer   

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