99-047 (Spoehr Named Provost)
Distributed November 2, 1999
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Kathryn Spoehr named executive vice president and provost

Kathryn T. Spoehr, currently dean of the faculty and interim provost at Brown University, has been named executive vice president and provost, succeeding William S. Simmons.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Kathryn T. Spoehr, dean of the faculty and interim provost, has been appointed executive vice president and provost of Brown University, succeeding William S. Simmons. Brown President E. Gordon Gee made the announcement today (Nov. 2, 1999) at a regular meeting of the University faculty.

“Our search for a new provost had a very clear goal: to identify an excellent internal candidate with a solid record of achievement in research, instruction and academic administration,” Gee said. “Kathryn Spoehr’s work in cognitive science, her departmental leadership and her tenure as an effective and creative dean in the Graduate School and as dean of the faculty have helped move this University forward. I am confident that she will continue her service to Brown as an excellent provost and colleague.”

The executive vice president and provost serves as the president’s second-in-command and is the chief academic officer of the University, responsible for everything from libraries and information technology to the University’s faculty and deans. In February 1998, as part of a general reorganization of his senior administration, Gee reconfigured the provost’s office and assigned it a larger, more central role to ensure that academic priorities would continue to drive the University’s planning and decision making. Spoehr will be the University’s eighth provost.

The selection was made by a 13-member committee of faculty, administrators and students chaired by Sheila E. Blumstein, professor and chair of cognitive and linguistic sciences. Other faculty members included Pierre Saint-Amand, French studies; Michael Putnam, classics; Carolyn Dean, history; Rajiv Vohra, economics; Barry Connors, neuroscience; Anita Zimmerman, medical science; David Cutts, physics; and Jan Tullis, geology. Vice President Walter Holmes represented the administration, and three students – Jennie Leszkiewicz, Jerelyn Johnson, and Gregory Roth – represented the undergraduate College, Graduate School and School of Medicine respectively.

“I would like to thank the members of the selection committee for their generous commitment of time and effort to the selection process,” Blumstein said. “I believe we were able to provide a swift yet thorough consideration of all applicants for this important position.” The committee began its work in August and considered the candidacies of eight tenured faculty before making its recommendation to the president in mid-October.

Kathryn Spoehr

Spoehr received her A.B. degree magna cum laude at Brown University in 1969, with special honors in mathematical psychology. She did graduate work in psychology and computer science (artificial intelligence) at Stanford University, where she earned her A.M. degree in 1971 and Ph.D. in 1973. After a year on the faculty at Douglass College of Rutgers University, she joined the Brown faculty in 1974 as assistant professor of psychology. Promoted to associate professor in 1980 and to professor in 1993, Spoehr was a strong proponent of interdisciplinary research and was a principal architect in the creation of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences at Brown in 1986. She chaired that department from 1991 to 1993.

Early in her career, as the modern understanding of cognitive psychology emerged, Spoehr’s research focused on basic problems of cognition, including visual information processing and reading. Her work later turned to interdisciplinary research, applying the principles of cognitive science, including information technology, to issues of classroom teaching and learning. Spoehr was among the earliest Brown researchers to conduct research on information technology in high school classrooms, studying the possibilities of hypermedia for instruction in history and literature.

Spoehr has served in several major administrative positions at Brown. She was acting director of the Office of Institutional Research (1983-1984), associate provost for budget and planning (1982-1985), and, in 1993, was named dean of the Graduate School and research, succeeding Phillip J. Stiles. Three years later, at the request of President Vartan Gregorian, Spoehr succeeded Bryan E. Shepp as dean of the faculty. During the February 1998 reorganization, the title of Spoehr’s position was changed to vice provost and dean of the faculty.