Gary Wihl to become dean of faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis

Gary S. Wihl, Ph.D., dean of Rice University’s School of Humanities and a highly respected scholar and academic leader, will become dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis on July 1, according to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.


Wihl will succeed Ralph S. Quatrano, Ph.D., the Spencer T. Olin Professor and former chair of the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences. Quatrano has been serving as interim dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences since July 1, 2008, when Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., was selected to become provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Macias, the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences, served as dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences for 15 years prior to his appointment to his new position.

“Gary Wihl brings his many talents as both an accomplished scholar and an experienced administrator to Washington University at a very important time in our history,” said Wrighton. “I am grateful for the excellent work of those on the advisory committee for identifying such an outstanding candidate to fill this important role on the university’s senior leadership team. We are excited about the prospect of working with Gary Wihl and will value the intellectual leadership he will bring to Arts & Sciences and to the university more broadly.”

“As co-chair of the 16-member Advisory Committee on the Appointment of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, I am thrilled to convey our enthusiastic support for Gary’s appointment,” said Elzbieta Sklodowska, Ph.D., the Randolph Family Professor in Arts & Sciences. “After thoroughly reviewing a large and diverse pool of candidates of great merit, I can say with confidence that Gary is exactly the academic leader we were looking for and who will enjoy great support among the key constituencies of Arts & Sciences — faculty, students, staff and alumni.

“He brings to this position the right mix of qualities, values and experience, including his multidisciplinary outlook, proven commitment to fostering diversity and outstanding fund-raising record,” she said. “I am delighted that Gary has agreed to guide us forward in these challenging times.”

“We had a very large committee representing every part of the Arts & Sciences, so candidates had to inspire and win the support of an intellectually diverse group,” said James V. Wertsch, Ph.D., the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences, who co-chaired the Advisory Committee. “Gary Wihl did. He brought exciting ideas to the table about the opportunities and challenges that will face all of us. We also found Gary to be someone who understands the broader societal context in which universities work and ways to shape, rather than just react to this context. This has been a key to the major successes he has had in fund raising.

“The committee was convinced that Gary will bring thoughtful new perspectives to everything from the graduate and undergraduate curriculum, to research, to fund raising for the sciences, social sciences and humanities at Washington University,” said Wertsch, who is also director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy and of International & Area Studies.

“Arts & Sciences at Washington University has achieved remarkable momentum during the last 10 years, something that is well known in higher education circles,” said Wihl. “I feel honored to be selected by the faculty and the university leadership for this position as the university seeks to fulfill the goals of the Plan for Excellence over the next 10 years. (My wife) Sarah and I are immensely excited about joining an outstanding academic community and doing all we can to contribute to its further success.”

As dean of Rice University’s School of Humanities, Wihl is responsible for 12 departments, three centers and four interdepartmental programs, 150 tenure-track faculty and lecturers and 50 administrative staff, and a budget of approximately $26 million.

During his tenure as dean, Wihl raised more than $40 million, including one of the largest single gifts in Rice’s history in the amount of $20 million for the recruitment of star faculty. His principal accomplishments include the establishment of a new Ph.D. program in art history in collaboration with Houston’s major art museums; increasing support for faculty research by 348 percent; increasing graduate stipends by 32.5 percent; and adding postdoctoral fellowships in the fields of gender studies, classics, linguistics and German studies.

With the support of the Andrew Mellon Foundation, he developed an innovative training program for doctoral students in the humanities. He also launched new undergraduate programs in creative writing, poverty and social justice studies, a package of study-abroad fellowships and courses, and a pilot program in medical humanities. Wihl built strong relationships with alumni and the Houston community through the establishment of a Humanities Advisory Board consisting of distinguished alumni from the arts, investment banking, venture capital and the legal profession.

Wihl came to Rice University in July 2003 as the Francis Moody Newman Professor of the Humanities and as dean of the humanities school from Emory University, where he had been acting dean of the Graduate School.

He arrived at Emory in January 2001 as professor of English and associate dean of the Graduate School, before being named acting dean in June 2001.

His many achievements at Emory included restructuring the Graduate School budget to phase in fifth-year funding for doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences; organizing a major national conference on philanthropy and the research university; and sponsoring the establishment of a new Center for Humanistic Inquiry.

A native of Montreal, Canada, Wihl earned a bachelor’s degree in 1976 and a master’s degree in 1978, both in English from McGill University, and his doctorate from Yale University in 1983. He held an Izaak Killam postdoctoral fellowship at Dalhousie University from 1983-84 and an Andrew Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University from 1984-85.

He returned to McGill in 1985 as assistant professor of English and was promoted to associate professor in 1989 and to professor in 1996.

While at McGill he served as associate dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research from 1991-1993 and from 1996-1999 as chair of the Department of English, where he eliminated an operating deficit, increased support for graduate students, revitalized the theater program, recruited new faculty, and restructured the departmental curriculum to achieve a balanced focus on historical, cultural and creative course content.

Promotes ‘interdisciplinary spirit’

“Gary Wihl brings to Washington University outstanding scholarship, a strong record of administrative accomplishment and eagerness to work with the diverse groups that comprise Arts & Sciences,” said Barbara A. Schaal, Ph.D., the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor in biology.

“One of Dean Wihl’s many appealing qualities is his record of encouraging scholarship across diverse fields,” said Tim Bono, third-year doctoral student in psychology, graduate representative to the board, and a 2005 Arts & Sciences graduate with a major in psychology and minor in music.

“Many students are attracted to Washington University because of the rich opportunities here to pursue studies that transcend the limits of traditional academic boundaries, and I am happy that we have found a leader who is dedicated to promoting this interdisciplinary spirit not only within Arts & Sciences, but also among the other academic divisions,” Bono said. “Under Dean Wihl’s tutelage, I believe Arts & Sciences has a lot to look forward to in the era ahead.”

Wihl’s research focuses on the interpretation of liberalism and constitutional change in selected 19th- and 20th-century English and American authors.

The author of two books — The Contingency of Theory, Pragmatism, Expressivism, and Deconstruction and Ruskin and the Rhetoric of Infallibility — and co-editor of two collections of essays, he has received numerous awards and grants.

He will become a member of the Department of English. Wihl’s wife, Sarah Westphal-Wihl, Ph.D., who is an associate professor of German studies at Rice, will become an associate professor in the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures in Arts & Sciences.

Westphal-Wihl, whose areas of expertise include medieval literature and culture and religious communities in the German Enlightenment, is the author of Textual Poetics of German Manuscripts 1300-1500, a study of how the production of hand-written books reveals aspects of medieval reading and interpretive practice.

From 1985 to 1990, she was associate editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Her new book, Ladies, Harlots and Pious Women: A Sourcebook in Courtly, Religious, and Urban Cultures of Late Medieval Germany, co-authored with Professor Ann Marie Rasmussen of Duke University, is forthcoming in spring 2009.