A Note From the Dean

The Last Waltz

Will HarrisonGreetings from Gainesville. It's been a beautiful Spring in North Central Florida (albeit too dry), with spectacular displays of azaleas and dogwoods. As CLAS alums you doubtless have similar memories of Gainesville this time of year. Perhaps it is comforting that in the midst of seemingly constant change at UF, certain things are timeless.

As some of you know, this is my final Note from the Dean. After 12 wonderful years in the deanship, it's time to let someone else take over. My expectation in 1988, as I arrived here from the University of Virginia, was that about five years would suffice to accomplish my goals and to gain my fill of deaning. Wrong on both accounts.

The early years of my term were difficult budget times, to the extent that we in CLAS found ourselves in a real struggle just to maintain existing strengths. Thankfully, the situation improved slowly over several years, as the combination of better state, federal, and private funding eventually brought us around to the position of strength we currently enjoy. In the process, I found that I liked this job so much that the years flew by, and the five-year plan became 12. Now it's time.

There are many things I will miss when I step down at the end of the summer. At the top of that list are the people who have been there with me along the way--the outstanding faculty, administrators, staff, and students who have made UF and CLAS what it is today. Besides that, they have simply been fun to be around. No way would I have lasted so many years otherwise.

Another source of pleasure as dean has been the large number of CLAS alumni it has been my privilege to meet. Many have stepped forward to support our academic programs, and I can never thank them enough for what they have done to move CLAS to a higher level. Beyond that, however, some special friends of CLAS have become good personal friends, people with whom I have enjoyed sharing discussions, meals, ball games, and laughs. One thing I learned early on at UF was how much Gators truly love this university. The intensity of this bond surprised me at first, until I quickly came to the same feeling myself. The University of Florida does get into your blood, doesn't it?

As much as I will miss serving as dean, the siren of Chemistry still calls. She and I have maintained a fairly good relationship in the interim, as my graduate students and postdocs kept my research laboratory active. But I do look forward to renewing a full time "affair" that will include class room teaching once more. I used to be a pretty fair teacher, and we will see how far these skills have eroded after removal of the administrative rust. Chemistry is a demanding profession. There was never any option, even had I wished, to put my research laboratory on a shelf for 12 years and ever hope to recover. It would have meant returning to a world that had passed me by, with little hope of retooling sufficiently to have a scholarly presence. Fortunately, our research in analytical atomic spectroscopy has prospered, so while my fellow chemists often questioned the sanity of remaining dean so long, my Science Guy union card was never quite revoked.

More importantly, CLAS also finds itself in a good position for the transition to new leadership. The future dean, when appointed, will benefit from the presence of distinguished faculty, strong academic programs, and a sense of optimism for the future. S/he will have the opportunity to take this college to its next level. With the naming of a new UF president, CLAS will be a strong force in driving this university to stand among the very best of the public universities. I will certainly follow this trajectory with more than a little interest.

Thanks to so many people among our CLAS alumni who have made such a difference in my life. Space doesn't permit naming names, but you know who you are, and I am very grateful. The deanship has been a grand adventure, a ride I will never forget.

See you in the lab.
Will Harrison,

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