Stahl, Fields to lead College of Arts & Sciences on interim basis

Will take on additional roles as plans are under way to begin search for new dean 

Following the Sept. 6 death of James E. McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton has announced a transitional leadership plan for the College of Arts & Sciences.

Sharon Stahl, PhD, associate vice chancellor for students and dean of the First Year Center, and Wayne Fields, PhD, the Lynne Cooper Harvey Distinguished Professor of English in Arts & Sciences, have agreed to take on the additional responsibilities of leading the College of Arts & Sciences on an interim basis.


Stahl will serve as senior associate dean in the college office and Fields will serve as senior faculty adviser to the College of Arts & Sciences. Their appointments are effective Oct. 1, 2011.

In commenting on the interim appointments, Wrighton says, “The Washington University family continues to mourn the loss of Jim McLeod. One of Jim’s great contributions is the outstanding program he developed for undergraduate students at Washington University. I am grateful to both Associate Vice Chancellor Sharon Stahl and Professor Wayne Fields for their leadership during this critical time of transition. I am confident that the College of Arts & Sciences will remain a source of great strength to all undergraduates.”

Plans are under way to begin a comprehensive search for the next dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Stahl and Fields will serve in their interim positions until June 30, 2012, when it is expected that a regular term dean will be in place.


“Both Sharon and Wayne have been incredibly generous with their time and they are doing everything they can for Arts & Sciences to help us through the transition,” says Gary S. Wihl, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Hortense & Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences.

Wihl, who met with the College of Arts & Sciences staff and chairs and directors last week to inform them of the transition, says that Stahl will handle the day-to-day management of the college office and Fields will focus on issues and events where college faculty representation is needed.

“Jim shaped the entire undergraduate experience,” Wihl says. “We will do everything we can to maintain that legacy. Jim left a permanent mark on the undergraduate culture and we will preserve Jim’s legacy in all the programs he initiated, shaped and led.”

“Jim McLeod’s vision was to assure that each student would be known by name and story,” Stahl says. “Every member of the college office embraces that goal and I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to assure the continuity of Jim’s work.

“He wanted each of our students to have an experience that would build the foundation for a life of meaning and purpose after they complete their time with us; we will all work together to make sure that goes forward,” Stahl says.

Stahl started her career at Washington University in the College of Arts & Sciences, serving as part-time scholarship coordinator for the Honorary Scholars Program from 1988 until 1992, when McLeod became dean and named her assistant dean.

She was promoted to associate dean of the college in 1995. Among her responsibilities, she was a four-year academic adviser and was assigned 40 incoming freshmen every year.

She served as director of the Life Sciences Pre-Professional program and was responsible for advising students applying to medical school. She also served as the liaison between Arts & Sciences and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

McLeod recognized Stahl’s ability to connect with students and help them through their college years. In 2009, he named her associate vice chancellor for students and the inaugural director of the First Year Center, which is aimed at helping new students transition to university life.

In this position, Stahl works with colleagues in all areas of the university that can influence a student’s arrival and transition to campus life, including the five undergraduate schools, Campus Life and Residential Life, as well as Cornerstone: The Center for Advanced Learning; First Year Programs, which include Orientation and Parent and Family Weekend; and the Office of International Students and Scholars.

She also works with faculty members who have large classes with first-year students.

Stahl also directs the Danforth Scholars program.

Stahl earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1968. She completed work on a master’s degree in art history in 1970 from Vanderbilt University, where she worked in undergraduate admissions.

After moving to St. Louis, and with three young children at home, Stahl started the doctoral program in history at Saint Louis University. She earned a doctorate in 1987.

‘A College that knows and values its students’

In a letter to the college staff about the transition, Fields wrote: “Everything that we have become — and are still becoming — rests on the foundation of a College that knows and values its students individually and provides an intellectual community in which they can realize their highest potential.


“The mission of the College, and certainly Jim’s vision, is to provide each student the opportunity for an exceptional undergraduate education; this is what your work has helped make possible even in the most difficult of times. Our job, together, is to sustain that mission, that vision, while making possible a smooth transition for the person who will eventually assume the role of Dean of the College.”

Fields, who is also a professor of American culture studies in Arts & Sciences, has been a member of the WUSTL faculty since 1968 and a long-time friend of Jim McLeod’s.

Fields wrote in his letter to the college staff that his job is “to provide whatever support I can as a long time faculty member and friend of Jim and all of you.”

Fields has held several key leadership positions at the university, including founding director of the American Culture Studies Program from 1996-2008 and most recently founding director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics from January 2010-June 2011.

Fields, who was named the inaugural holder of the Harvey chair in 1999, is a nationally known expert on American literature, non-fiction prose, rhetoric and American political argument.

His books include James Fenimore Cooper: A Collection of Critical Essays (1979); What the River Knows: An Angler in Midstream (1990), a highly acclaimed non-fiction book about fly-fishing, the mysteries of rivers and the uncertainties of life’s second half; and The Past Leads a Life of Its Own (1992), a collection of stories that capture a simpler life of growing up in the American heartland.

His Union of Words: A History of Presidential Eloquence (1996) examined the use of rhetoric in presidential speeches, from declarations of candidacy to nomination acceptances, inaugural addresses, state-of-the-union speeches, declarations of war, executive farewells and other special addresses.

Fields earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from Augustana College in 1964. He earned a master’s degree the following year and a doctorate in 1972, both from the University of Chicago.

He came to Washington University in 1968 as an instructor of English and was named assistant professor in 1971, associate professor in 1977 and full professor in 1991.

Fields served as acting chair of the Department of English in 1987-88 and chair from 1989 to 1992. He was director of the Master of Liberal Arts Program from 1986 to 1992 and dean of University College in Arts & Sciences from 1992-96.

Over the years, Fields has served on numerous academic and advisory committees, including the Arts & Sciences Academic Planning Committee, the school’s Faculty Council and the Task Force on Undergraduate Curriculum, which issued recommendations for revising the Arts & Sciences undergraduate course of study.

He also has received numerous teaching awards, including the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, a Founders Day Faculty Award, the Burlington-Northern Teaching Award, a University College Teaching Award and the Interfraternity Council Excellence in Teaching Award.