Bob Flowers was announced as the new College of Arts and Sciences dean on Tuesday, Oct. 29. Flowers was serving as the deputy provost for faculty affairs and had been in the role for almost three years. (Lauryn Ragone/B&W Staff)

Robert Flowers named College of Arts and Sciences dean after selection process


Update: Robert Flowers, deputy provost for faculty affairs and chemistry professor, was announced by Provost Pat Farrell as the new College of Arts and Sciences dean Tuesday morning. Flowers will assume the position on Nov. 1. 

Flowers was involved with the development of the new College of Health throughout the search for Whitney Witt, the current dean. 

He was the department chair for the chemistry department from 2003 to 2015 before becoming deputy provost for faculty affairs in 2016.  He is an internationally recognized scholar who taught as a visiting professor at the Research School of Chemistry at the Australian National University and the School of Chemistry at the University of Manchester. Flowers also taught at the University of Toledo and Texas Tech University.

Flowers has received several awards at Lehigh including the Eleanor and Joseph F. Libsch Research Award in 2012, the Dean’s Award for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity in 2016, and the Hillman Award for Excellence in Graduate Advising in 2017, according to Lehigh communications.

Farrell said Flowers will bring experience and motivation to help grow Lehigh to the position as dean.

Maria Donoghue Velleca withdrew as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences after originally accepting the position, catalyzing a new search process to find a replacement.

Velleca was supposed to take on her role as dean beginning June 30, replacing Interim Dean Cameron Wesson. 

Stephen DeWeerth, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, Jack Lule, chair of the department of journalism and communication, and a committee of faculty across colleges were tasked with identifying a set of possible candidates. 

“Our task was to work with a search firm and to identify a large pool of candidates,” DeWeerth said. “Typically, a search committee is looking for three people to propose to the provost.” 

DeWeerth said he will not explicitly be involved in the search moving forward.

In an email to faculty and staff, Provost Pat Farrell outlined how the administration plans to proceed. 

It had been suggested to Farrell that instead of finding an interim dean, the candidate they choose should serve a three-year term.

In the meantime, Diane Hyland assumed the role as short-term interim dean until Nov. 1. Appointing her to this position allowed a small ad-hoc advisory committee — a committee formed with the intention of completing a certain task to be dissolved upon completion — to find new candidates.

“This semester will be a transition phase,” Hyland said. “We have stable associate deans and administrative support staff, so the college is in good hands.”

The email said the ad-hoc advisory committee will be comprised of the College of Arts and Sciences faculty who will “serve to encourage and gather nominations, engage with the faculty to gather viewpoints about the various candidates, and develop a confidential report of their work for the president and provost.”

Farrell expressed in the email his hope to appoint a new College of Arts and Sciences dean who will assume the position by Nov. 1.

“There are four of us,” said Scott Gordon, an English professor. “There’s me, Jennifer Swann, Kathy Olson and Melpomene Katakalos.” 

Gordon said the committee set up a process where individuals in the College of Arts and Sciences and other Lehigh colleges, were able to nominate candidates for the position. Once they had been nominated, one of the four members of the committee reached out to each candidate to see if they want to “put themselves forward.”

That period ended Sept. 20. Once the nomination period was complete, three individuals who were nominated agreed to submit their names for consideration for dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Each of these candidates held town halls, and there was a process by which people who were at the town halls saw them online, or who met with the candidates in groups, were able to provide feedback to the search committee,” Gordon said. 

The search committee then received various forms of feedback and created memos to condense the information, which were submitted to the provost.

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