Dianne Lynch, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications, announced Tuesday during an emergency meeting with faculty of the school that she will be leaving Ithaca College to become president of Stephens College, a private women’s college in Columbia, Mo.
“Life is full of opportunities,” Lynch said. “I always aspired to be president of an all-women’s college.”
Lynch said she wanted her decision process to be private, unlike her experience a year and a half ago when deciding whether to take a dean position at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. In July 2007, Lynch accepted the position of dean at Berkeley. In November 2007, Lynch withdrew from the position and decided to stay in Ithaca.
“I was on campus [at Stephens College] two weeks ago, and it was completely confidential,” Lynch said. “I had the opportunity, unlike the last time, to make the decision with my family and friends in a way that was private. That’s been a great gift.”
According to Amy Gibson, vice president for marketing and public relations at Stephens College, Lynch accepted the position after a finalists’ visit to Stephens College on April 6. Lynch said she made her decision last weekend. Stephens College and Ithaca College made the announcement simultaneously.
Steven Skopik, professor and chair of the Department of Cinema, Photography and Media Arts, said Lynch cultivated a culture of “yes” that has put the school in a favorable position for moving toward the future.
“She came along at just the right time when there were a lot of complicated things going on in the transition of various media forms we are involved with,” Skopik said. “She was a force who … encouraged everybody to think through that flexibly and creatively.”
The college has not set a specific timeline for appointing an interim dean, according to Kathleen Rountree, provost and vice president of academic affairs. Rountree said she hopes an interim will be appointed before Lynch’s contract expires June 1.
“I’ve asked the faculty in the meeting to send me their thoughts about who may be an interim candidate, as well as the search,” Rountree said. “I’ll listen to their advice first, and then we’ll make decisions.”
Nancy Cornwell, associate professor and chair of the Department of Television and Radio, said Lynch set a high standard of leadership at the school.
“We understand the positive impact a good leader can have,” Cornwell said. “What this means for the Park School is that we have to look for that in our next leader. We want someone who represents where we want to go and has the capacity to facilitate that.”
Skopik, who has previously served on selection committees for administrators at the Park School, said the weeks ahead provide the school with an opportunity for reflection.
“One positive thing that comes out of this is a real, natural demarcation point to stand still for a second and look at ourselves,” Skopik said. “We can think about where we’ve been recently, how we’re going to continue the positive momentum we have and what directions make sense programmatically, as a college, as a school, as individual departments.”
Senior Caitlin Castle, a student assistant in the dean’s office, said Lynch brings a great deal of energy to the school and will be missed.
“She’s so personable and takes that time to explain the program and share that passion,” she said. “So it’s a loss, and it’s tough, but I know that it’s a good opportunity for her.”
According to Castle, even prospective students identify with Lynch.
“Everybody gets so excited just by hearing her speak,” she said. “Even at Ithaca Today, kids were lined up out the door just to speak to the dean, and that really doesn’t happen.”
Lynch said the college will always be important to her.
“I still love this place with all my heart,” Lynch said. “You can love something and realize it’s time for someone else to step in.”