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Page is named FYS dean

Eileen Duffy | Tuesday, February 15, 2005

After 15 years of steady improvement under current dean, Eileen Kolman, Notre Dame’s First Year of Studies program gained its next leader Monday.

Rev. Hugh Page, Walter associate professor of theology, has been appointed the dean of the FYS program, Univer-sity Provost Nathan Hatch said in a press release.

A panel of five faculty members and one senior student selected Page, with Hatch as panel chair. According to Page, the appointment came as “a total surprise.”

“I am tremendously honored and humbled,” he said in an e-mail. “I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to serve the University and its students in this capacity.”

Page is the fourth dean to lead the first-year program since its inception in 1962, following in the footsteps of William Burke, Emil Hofman and most recently, Kolman. Kolman, who has served in the position since 1990, announced in October that she would retire this June. Although Page has some big shoes to fill, Hatch believes he is ready for the challenge.

“Over the last 12 years, Hugh Page has distinguished himself as a teacher, scholar, administrator, counselor, colleague and friend,” Hatch said in the release. “His rich experience and exemplary performance ideally suit him for this crucial position.”

Since 1962, the First Year of Studies program has grown into the solid introduction to University life that it is today. In the program – which has remained relatively the same since Hofman designed it 30 years ago – each student is required to take one semester of writing, one seminar, two semesters of mathematics, two semesters of science, one semester of history or social science, electives and two physical education requirements.

Kolman made many changes to FYS during her 14-year term, including establishing the University Seminar program, the FYS Academic Convocation, collaborative learning groups and a strong peer-advising program. She also worked to increase the diversity of the 14 advisors within the program.

Page spoke very highly of his predecessor.

“Dean Kolman has been both a mentor and friend,” he said. ” … She has been an articulate spokesperson for the interests of our first year students and a true servant-leader under whose watch the First Year of Studies has enjoyed national prominence.”

Indeed, the program has been recognized for excellence by such publications as U.S. News and World Report and Hispanic Magazine. It has also contributed to Notre Dame’s low freshman attrition rate – the fourth-lowest in the country after Harvard, Princeton and Yale, according to Hofman.

Page, who joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1992, graduated from Hampton University and went on to earn a theological degree from General Theological Seminary in New York, as well as a master’s and doctoral degree in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Harvard University.

Now an Episcopal priest, he currently serves as associate dean and director of undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Letters and director of the African-American Studies program. He has taught classes in biblical studies, Near Eastern languages, ancient myth and theology.

Page said he believes his extensive background in religion will help him encourage the academic habits of Notre Dame freshmen.

“The quest for what I would call a ‘deep knowledge’ of the cosmos is at the heart of our common life today. Thus, our desire to search, to understand and, thereby, to enjoy communion with the infinite and one another is something that connects us with the poets, prophets and sages responsible for the Bible and other sacred texts,” he said. ” … I would hope to encourage our first year students to become careful readers, disciplined autodidacts and ambitious explorers who see their courses at Notre Dame as an invitation to a life of critical reflection and intellectual growth that is ongoing.”

Other interests of Page’s include poetry, music, photography and martial arts. He also serves as volunteer assistant coach for the Notre Dame men’s varsity tennis team.

Before Page can put his own mark on the FYS program, however, he must become familiar with its intricacies.

“At this point, my first tasks will be to listen and to learn from those who have been on the front lines as advisors and administrators in the First Year of Studies. I also need to seek the counsel of the deans and faculty of the other colleges,” he said. “Once these things are done, I hope that all of us can create a common vision for the future.”