Distributed August 2, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Tracie Sweeney

Kathryn Spoehr to conclude service as provost, executive vice president

Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons announces that Kathryn T. Spoehr will resign as the University’s executive vice president and provost effective Aug. 31, 2001. Spoehr will return to her teaching and research after taking sabbatical leave.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons has announced that Kathryn T. Spoehr will resign as Brown University’s executive vice president and provost effective Aug. 31, 2001.

"It has been a distinct privilege to serve Brown University in so many capacities," Spoehr said. "My focus as an administrator has been on Brown’s academic priorities, and I am proud that our efforts in this area have resulted in a reaffirmation of the University’s mission. I want to thank the presidents under whom I have served, and my colleagues in the academic administration who have made this a rewarding experience."

Spoehr, a professor of cognitive and linguistic sciences, specializes in human learning and problem solving, and in the design of educational computer software. She has served as executive vice president and provost since November 1999. She will return to her research and teaching after taking sabbatical leave.

President Simmons has issued the following statement:

"We are indebted to Kathy for her dedication and years of service during times of enormous challenge and opportunity. Of course it would be difficult to express the many ways that Kathy has contributed to the University as provost. She was primarily responsible during the last year and a half for the significant progress made in a number of academic areas: initiating external cluster reviews to maximize interdisciplinary collaboration among academic departments; increasing the rigor of assessment of academic strength; and leading the University through difficult discussions about the future of Brown’s academic mission. She has also advocated for improved faculty salaries and resources, new and enhanced academic facilities, and numerous other projects that have helped strengthen the foundation of research and teaching at the University.

"While I am disappointed not to have the opportunity to work with Kathy in her role as provost, I am certain that we will all continue to draw from her substantial experience and expertise to ensure the best for Brown in the years ahead. We will schedule an event to honor Kathy’s many contributions to Brown sometime in the next two months. On behalf of the University community, I want to express my gratitude for her devotion to Brown."

A search for Spoehr’s successor will begin as soon as possible, Simmons said.

Brown’s executive vice president and provost is the chief academic officer of the University, with responsibility for all academic and budgetary functions within the College, the Graduate School, and the Medical School, including the academic functions located in departments, interdisciplinary programs, academic centers and institutes.

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. She served as vice provost and dean of the faculty from 1996-1999, and as interim provost from Aug. 1, 1999, until her appointment as provost the following November.