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Photo credit: Helder Mira via Haverford College Communications

The Search Is Over: Haverford’s New Dean of the College Is John F. McKnight, Jr.

Haverford has selected John F. McKnight, Jr. as the new Dean of the College. Since Dean Joyce Bylander, who currently fills this role, was hired on a temporary basis while the search for a permanent dean was ongoing, a search committee consisting of students, staff and faculty had been interviewing candidates throughout the 2020–21 academic year to find a long-term replacement.

By February, the committee had narrowed down their search to a trio of candidates. Throughout the first half of the month, students were invited to attend virtual visits with each of the three candidates. Those who attended had the option to fill out a feedback form detailing their thoughts on the individual that they had visited with.

After the search committee compiled the student feedback and debriefed, President Wendy Raymond was finally able to share their decision with the rest of Haverford’s community. In her March 2 email, she expressed that she was “delighted to announce that John F. McKnight, Jr. will be Haverford’s next Dean of the College.”

President Raymond followed her announcement by praising McKnight for his “deep passion for the liberal arts, [his] holistic support of undergraduates, and for building equity and inclusion across academics, student life, and communities.”

McKnight will be coming to Haverford from Connecticut College, where he has worked as the Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion since 2016. A current first-year student at Connecticut College spoke positively of his work there, adding that she believes “he will be good for Haverford’s diversity, equity, and inclusion mission.” He will officially assume his position as Dean of the College on July 1, 2021. However, President Raymond noted in her email that the administration, specifically herself and Dean Bylander, would begin working with McKnight immediately in preparation of a smooth transition.

Elena Marcovici ’21, one of the students who attended the visit with McKnight, provided her perspective on the future dean in a March 22 email, noting that she was impressed with him almost immediately. While acknowledging that the visit was only short and thus couldn’t be completely evaluative, she said: “He was really welcoming and warm but also clearly had experience navigating tough situations and conversations… [T]hrough his answers, it was evident that he centers restorative justice and the student experience in a way that fits nicely with my (and hopefully others’) conception of Haverford.”

An email from search committee member Nicole Haas-Loomis ’21 echoed Marcovici’s hopeful sentiment. Haas-Loomis stated that the committee was impressed with all three of the final candidates, but said: “in the end, I’m really happy that John said ‘yes!’”

There is no doubt that McKnight will have his work cut out for him when he starts at Haverford this summer. After a year spent reckoning with the racial and economic inequities on campus, not to mention the health risks and obstacles of a global pandemic, the community is in need of a strong leader. Hopefully, McKnight’s experience and preparation will prove fruitful as he joins the college in July.

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