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Dean Roche announces resignation

Ken Fowler | Friday, May 18, 2007

College of Arts and Letters Dean Mark Roche announced May 1 he will resign from his administrative position at the end of the 2007-08 school year, ending 11 years of leading the college. He will continue his work as a professor and scholar at Notre Dame.

A nationwide search headed by Provost Thomas Burish for Roche’s successor will begin after a College Council election seats five members on the search committee. Roche told The Observer it would be unusual for the outgoing dean to participate on the committee, and he does not foresee himself acting in that role.

“In many ways, it’s even more appealing,” Roche said, comparing the position of Arts and Letters dean today to the job 10 years ago. “I would hope they would be able to attract someone far superior to me. And I’m confident they will.”

Praising the staff in the dean’s office, Roche said whoever succeeds him will inherit a “well-oiled machine.”

“We have in a dean’s office a support staff, beginning with my senior administrative assistant [Carmen L. Leichty], that’s absolutely superb,” Roche said.

Roche joined the Notre Dame faculty as the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Professor of German Language and Literature in 1996 and was selected to replace Harold W. Attridge as Arts and Letters dean in 1997.

“It was not my original intention to serve as long as I have, but I stayed in the role because I fell in love early on with Notre Dame’s distinctive vision and ethos and with the community and aspirations of the College of Arts and Letters,” Roche wrote in a letter sent to faculty members May 1.

Roche, who graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in 1978, currently teaches a college seminar on faith, doubt and reason. He said he would like to continue teaching in the college seminar format and may also resume teaching duties in German literature courses.

“By the end of next year I will have been tenured for eighteen years and will have served as an administrator for seventeen years,” Roche wrote. “Any additional years would have moved me, perhaps irrevocably, into a career as an administrator. I have always preferred the somewhat antiquated model, which I admired already as an undergraduate at Williams College, whereby an administrator is an active scholar-teacher who serves for a period of time and then passes the baton, returning to full-time teaching and scholarship.”

After publishing four books during his time as dean – including three whose research and scholarship had large portions conducted either before his tenure began or during a partial leave he took in his third year as dean – Roche is preparing two new scholarly books. One will be in German, intended for a German audience, comparing the American university system, including Catholic universities, to the German system. The other, The Three-fold Value of a Liberal Arts Education, draws from his time as dean, he said.

In 2003, Roche published The Intellectual Appeal of Catholicism and the Idea of a Catholic University, a book that came “after having interviewed hundreds of job candidates who really didn’t understand what Notre Dame’s Catholic mission was all about,” he said.

Roche said one of his major goals of the past five years has been promoting Notre Dame’s triadic identity as a “residential liberal arts college,” an “ambitious and dynamic research university,” and “a Catholic institution of international standing.”

“The last juncture where I had to reflect on continuing was after five years,” Roche said. “At the time, I was aware of some challenges that had not been met.”

“I think the college is in very good shape. … I would also say the new leadership is well in place, and I have stayed perhaps a little bit longer to help the transition,” Roche said, referring to University President Father John Jenkins’ inauguration in September 2005.

Roche was awarded the Kaneb Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2006.

Since 1997, Roche has served as associate editor for Film and Philosophy, an annual journal published by the Society for the Philosophic Study of the Contemporary Visual Arts.

The College of Arts and Letters includes 21 departments and 30 majors for approximately 2,500 undergraduate students and another 750 graduate students.