The Colgate Scene
July 2004

The principled pragamatist

Former Provost and Dean of the Faculty Jack Dovidio (center) is "a very patient man, a diplomat -- the smartest poker player on the block, always five steps ahead," said Jane Pinchin, vice president for academic advancement and Thomas A. Bartlett Professor of English. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Jack Dovidio has stepped down as provost and dean of the faculty after serving in those posts since 2001. Dovidio, who has been a member of the Colgate faculty since 1977, has taken a leave of absence to pursue research opportunities at the University of Connecticut. The following remarks were made at a reception held in his honor in May. — Ed.

The words that define Jack Dovidio come fairly cleanly off the page.

"Multitask" was written for the man who can work efficiently between meetings, between overlapping meetings, in person, on the phone, online, in airports, at seven a.m., eleven p.m., with research assistants, the faculty advisory committee, dean's advisory committee, promotion and tenure committee, visiting deans, colleagues in Texas -- simultaneously.

He gives new definition to words like "synchronicity," or the "pregnant pause."

For Jack has redefined time: altered its linearity, creating the ninety-seven minute hour, the day that instantly expands like the well-fed man in a Pepto Bismol ad, getting more good work accomplished than anyone.

And oddly for someone so efficient, Jack -- the psychologist, the student of human behavior, theorist, and pragmatist -- is also a very patient man, a diplomat: the smartest poker player on the block, always five steps ahead, masterfully getting us where he would take us, where we somehow discover we always wanted to go, and never making it about winning.

And if you catch him out, tell him you've seen the scaffolding of his construction, have learned his magic moves, he smiles that winsome grin: at once "ah, shucks" and "gotcha."

Jack is also a principled pragmatist who believes in a number of guiding values and has stood by them always: faculty rights and prerogatives (an AAUP presence from start to last); excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service; diversity that moves from rhetoric to reality; and smart progressive institutional planning.

He has led almost everything at Colgate -- committees, his department, the natural sciences division. When I became dean of the faculty a decade ago, the very first thing I did was to ask Jack to take on the Division of University Studies and oversee the then-in-progress revision of the Core, not something he knew inside out, but something he did, characteristically, wonderfully well.

When in the summer of 2001 we immediately needed an interim provost and dean of the faculty, Jack was willing to take on the task. It was a wonder to have him do so. We were meeting together on 9/11 when the planes struck the World Trade Center; and, of course, through the student sit-in that fall, in which, there is no doubt, his extraordinary wisdom and knowledge served Colgate in good stead.

The rest, as they say, is history. Jack has led this community through its strategic plan with wisdom and skill, helped President Chopp where a guide was an important adjunct to perfect pitch, and led a faculty with dynamism and, also, modesty.

Kudos to you, Jack, from one very grateful colleague, and to your wife, Linda, whom we are so lucky to have had as another important member of the Colgate community as well. You will be missed on a campus that you have done so much to shape through the years. Our hearts and good wishes go with you.

— Jane L. Pinchin, vice president for academic advancement; Thomas A. Bartlett Professor of English

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