Distributed April 26, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Professor Mary L. Fennell named dean of the faculty

Mary L. Fennell, professor of sociology and community health, has been named dean of the faculty at Brown University. Fennell will begin her duties June 1, succeeding Kathryn T. Spoehr, who was appointed executive vice president and provost in November 1999.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Mary L. Fennell, professor of sociology and community health, has been named dean of the faculty at Brown University. Fennell’s appointment, announced by Provost Kathryn Spoehr Tuesday, April 25, in a letter to the Brown faculty, begins June 1.

Fennell will succeed and report to Spoehr, who was promoted from dean of the faculty to executive vice president and provost in November 1999. Her selection was the result of a four-month internal search conducted by a committee of nine faculty, chaired by Gordon Wood, professor of history.

“Professor Fennell brings to her new position a strong record as a scholar and teacher, and impressive credentials as a national leader of her profession,” Spoehr wrote to the faculty. “[She] has already shown herself to be a creative and thoughtful administrator, and has been a most effective voice for faculty concerns in every role she has undertaken to date.”

The dean of the faculty represents the interests and responsibilities of the Brown faculty within the University’s senior administration and has academic and financial oversight of all non-medical academic departments and programs of instruction. She recommends the appointment of chairs or directors of all academic units to the provost, approves all faculty searches, and is responsible for setting and supervising all academic budgets. After consultation with the president and the provost, the dean is directly responsible for the appointment of all faculty to the academic units of the University over which she has responsibility.

A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Santa Clara, Fennell earned her M.A. and Ph.D in sociology at Stanford University. She began her academic career in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois–Chicago in 1978 and became an associate professor with a joint appointment in the School of Public Health in 1984. In 1987 she joined The Pennsylvania State University as associate professor of sociology and senior research associate in the Institute for Policy Research and Evaluation, rising to the rank of professor in 1989. She joined the Brown faculty in 1995 as professor of sociology and community health.

Fennell has studied the leadership and governance of medical organizations and has recently focused on the provision of health care to older populations. She has been editor of The Journal of Health and Social Behavior and has served in several national professional organizations, including a term as chair of the Medical Sociology Section, one of the largest divisions of the American Sociological Association.

During her five years at Brown, Fennell has represented the faculty in several capacities. She served as a member of the Faculty Executive Committee and the Academic Priorities Subcommittee, and chaired the Provost’s Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Retirement during the 1996-97 academic year. As a faculty associate in the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, Fennell helped develop an external review process for the brain, behavioral and computational sciences cluster. She has served as an associate dean of the faculty since January.