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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

January 25, 2002, Special Edition

Tatum Steps in as Acting President


Beverly Daniel Tatum, dean of the College (left), and Donal O'Shea, dean of the faculty (right), will share the responsibilities of the president's office while President Joanne V. Creighton is on sabbatical.

Beverly Daniel Tatum calls it her "presidential internship." On January 1, with the start of President Joanne V. Creighton's six-month sabbatical, Tatum assumed the role of acting president of the College—and she couldn't be happier about the circumstances.

"I think I'm in an ideal situation for an acting president because Joanne has left the College in very good shape," says Tatum, who has been dean of the College since September 1998. "She has an excellent senior staff who are very good at what they do, and I know those people well because I've been working with them myself for the past four years. So I feel that I have good working relationships with the people upon whom I am most dependent to help me, and that makes this a fairly easy job to step into."

Tatum will be splitting the responsibilities of the president's office with Dean of Faculty Donal O'Shea. Dean of Students Rochelle Calhoun becomes acting dean of the College, and Elizabeth Hogan, assistant dean of students, stands in for Calhoun. Continuing in his role as the College's chief academic officer, O'Shea will work closely with Tatum on faculty personnel issues, such as tenure and promotion, and will continue to shepherd the academic building projects, the expansion and renovation of the science center chief among them. "I do think that Don's strengths and mine complement each other very well, and I think we'll be a good team," Tatum says.

One of her primary duties will be to continue the planning process launched by Creighton last fall to generate ideas to carry the College forward as a leading liberal arts institution for women. "One of my strengths is my capacity to engage people in dialogue," says Tatum, a professor of psychology and education. "It's what I do professionally, it's what I write about. I think the planning process at least initially is a lot about dialogue, so I think my particular strengths match nicely with the particular tasks of the spring semester." She said she is looking forward to engaging alumnae, students, faculty, and staff in that work.

Tatum will also focus on engaging the alumnae community and traveling the country to bring news to friends of the College. Although she has a major trip scheduled each month, Tatum also intends to make herself visible and accessible on campus. "I think this is a wonderful opportunity for me to explore whether I would like the life of a
college president," she says.

While she knows that she has Creighton's full confidence to act as an independent agent, Tatum says, she is aware of the challenges of her role. "Clearly, you can't make sweeping changes in six months, not that you'd want to," she says. "Joanne has laid out a good course, and I hope to move that agenda forward."

Her new position brings only one cause for regret, Tatum says; as dean of the College, she has had the privilege of reading the names of the graduating seniors at commencement. But there's a silver lining: the president gets to shake the graduates' hands. "That will be a special privilege," she says.

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