Students, faculty, staff and guests filled up Dandelion Square on Friday to kick off Yellowjacket Weekend at the annual College Convocation. The ceremony included the presentation of the Goergen Awards, but also denoted the first public mention of Dean of Students Jody Asbury’s impending retirement.

The featured part of Convocation was the awards ceremony, during which Dean of the College Richard Feldman presented this year’s Goergen Awards for Contributions to Undergraduate Education. Three faculty members received the Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching-Associate Professor of Optics and Biomedical Engineering Andrew Berger; Professor of Philosophy Robert Holmes; and Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures Claudia Schaefer.

Each year, the Goergen Award for Curricular Achievement in Undergraduate Education recognizes a program in the College and awards its ongoing or recent excellence. Director of the College Center for Academic Support Suzanne O’Brien accepted this award on behalf of the Take Five Scholars Program.

Feldman presented the last award of the day to Asbury, who received the Goergen Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Learning in the College. In his introduction, Feldman mentioned the fact that it was her last semester at UR, which was a shock to many students who had not yet heard about Asbury’s decision to retire after this fall semester. Several of the College staff and student leaders were notified in August after Asbury made her final decision early in the summer, but she asked Feldman to wait until students came back to school to make it public.

“I think Dean Feldman was looking for the right time, and I think he was also being very sensitive to me because I’ve been so ambivalent about doing this – about leaving,” Asbury said.

Asbury has been the Dean of Students since 2001 and has devoted those years to helping students; according to her, the job is a 24 hour, seven days a week responsibility.

“I take it seriously and I just sort of felt, for all kinds of reasons, that perhaps it was time to try a little something different at a little different pace,” she added.

Asbury hopes to stay at UR in a part-time capacity, helping with new and old projects and hopefully teaching her Leader to Leader course in the spring.

“I love the University of Rochester students and I think that I’m going to miss you terribly,” Asbury said. “I love the creativity and the intelligence you bring and all of your abilities. It’s energizing for me, and so I really wouldn’t know what to do without you all.”

The College is in the early stages of a process to find a new Dean of Students and it will be putting together a search committee to find potential candidates. Feldman plans to chair the committee, which will consist of various people who have worked closely with Asbury over the years. He is still deciding on the other members, but some potential members include Director of Wilson Commons Student Activities Anne-Marie Algier, Dean of Freshmen Marcy Kraus and Dean of Sophomores Vicki Roth.

“The search will be for a permanent dean,” Feldman said. “I think it’s possible, but not really likely, that we’ll get somebody for January, in which case there would be an interim dean until the permanent person can come on. We’ll advertise the position saying it can start January or at the end of the semester in the summer. I’d much prefer to get the best person we can and not make a short deadline and cause us to lose qualified candidates.”

Feldman thinks highly of Asbury and her connection with UR students. He highlighted two aspects of her tenure that stood out.

“One is [her] amazing commitment and dedication to students and to work with students when there is some kind of trouble or difficulty,” he said. “She just does that in such a warm and powerfully supportive way – it’s really been remarkable and impressive.”

He also praised Asbury’s commitment to connecting students with the Rochester community and helping them get involved with community service, internships, and various other opportunities.

“[She makes] students aware of possibilities, and I think that really enriches the lives of students,” he said. “[As] I said in my comments at Convocation, it’s very hard to imagine life around here without her, it really is. She’s been a real presence on campus and a great friend to me.”

In his remarks after the awards ceremony ended, Students’ Association President and junior Alvin Lomibao commended Asbury as well.

“To me, it is no mystery as to why Asbury is receiving the Goergen Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Learning in the College,” Lomibao said. “Her commitment to excellence is unrivaled, and her inspirational spirit is a testament to how she has been so successful.”

Friedlander is a member of the class of 2010.

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