Stahl to retire as vice chancellor for students

‘The perfect leader at a crucial point in the university’s development’

Sharon Stahl, PhD, vice chancellor for students at Washington University in St. Louis and longtime adviser and mentor to undergraduates in the College of Arts & Sciences, has announced that she will retire at the end of the academic year, June 30, 2015, according to Provost H. Holden Thorp, PhD.


Stahl, who was asked by Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton to help lead the College of Arts & Sciences for a year after the 2011 death of Dean James E. McLeod, was appointed vice chancellor for students by Wrighton in July 2012.

“Sharon Stahl has been committed to the students of Washington University for more than 25 years, and that will be her legacy, along with her continued shepherding of Jim McLeod’s vision of a community where every student is known and honored,” Wrighton said.

“She has been the perfect leader at a crucial point in the university’s development, and we are all indebted to her for the warmth, wisdom and kindness she brings to every interaction with our students and with her colleagues,” he said.

“In a short time, Sharon Stahl has made a huge impact on student services at Washington University,” Thorp said. “The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, The Lofts of Washington University, and our improved services and infrastructure for handling sexual assault are all lasting legacies that will serve the university well for years to come. On top of that, Sharon has an enduring compassion and ability to put people at ease that has enhanced us all.”

“It is has been my exceptional privilege to work with Washington University undergraduates since 1988,” Stahl said. “I can’t imagine that there could be a more rewarding professional life than working with Washington University students, getting to know them by name and story, listening to their hopes and dreams, and with my extraordinary colleagues, helping them to realize those hopes and dreams.

“One of the most wonderful things about being the vice chancellor for students is having the opportunity to work with every department and area that touches a student’s life,” she said. “That means working with all members of the Student Services community, facilities, dining services, the housekeeping staff in Residential Life, and faculty, deans and staff from all of the seven schools.

“All these committed individuals together create a rich undergraduate experience of exceptional quality where the goal is to create a seamless living/learning community, where experiences in the classroom and the community work together to create a sum greater than its individual parts.”

Stahl said highlights from her tenure as vice chancellor include working with colleagues to turn The Lofts from a plan into a place where students now live; the groundbreaking for construction of the Sumers Recreation and Fitness Center and renovation to the Athletic Complex; and the hiring of new Athletics Director Josh Whitman.

She said that the past two years also held significant challenges for the WUSTL community, noting the February 2013 racial incident in the Bear’s Den. Since then, she said, some important steps have been taken toward creating a more inclusive and diverse community, including the launch of the Mosaic Project and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

“The recent events in Ferguson reinforce the urgency of addressing such issues as race, privilege, socioeconomic disparities, the future of the environment and our place in the St. Louis community,” Stahl said. “The addition of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion this past summer provides us with the leadership of LaTanya Buck, the inaugural director, to bring together faculty, students and staff to tackle these hard questions as a community and to learn from each other.

“I am very grateful for Chancellor Mark Wrighton’s and Provost Holden Thorp’s support in establishing the center and for supporting all of us in all that we do to continue to provide at Washington University an unparalleled undergraduate experience, unparalleled because of the passion and commitment of the faculty and staff who stand at the center of it,” she said.

Ability to connect with students

Stahl began 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.

One of her responsibilities then was serving as the coordinator in a new national program being launched on campus, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program; Gerald Early, PhD, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters in Arts & Sciences, was the inaugural director. Now in its 22nd year at WUSTL, the program aims to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who earn PhDs in the humanities and the social sciences.

She also was asked to oversee the John and Penelope Biggs Residency in the Classics, which brings a prominent scholar in Greek or Latin studies to campus for a week. She continues to work with the visiting lectureship program 25 years later.

She was promoted to associate dean of the college in 1995. Among her responsibilities was as a four-year academic adviser assigned to 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.

When longtime Chancellor William H. Danforth retired, McLeod asked Stahl to help found and lead the Danforth Scholars Program, established to honor Danforth and his wife, Elizabeth Gray Danforth. Now in its 17th year, Stahl continues to oversee the scholarship program and remains involved in the annual selection of the approximately 25 new scholars.

Stahl has also remained involved with the College of Arts & Sciences as senior associate dean, still serving as a four-year adviser for undergraduates in Arts & Sciences.

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.

“My tenure with the Honorary Scholars Program, the Mellon Program and Danforth Scholars had given me the opportunity to work closely with faculty since 1988,” Stahl said. “Those relationships helped me to be a better adviser and to better understand how the First Year Center could be a bridge between the classroom and the community and facilitate a smoother transition for students new to our community.”

A search committee to identify Stahl’s successor will be announced soon.