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Weller, dean and teacher, retires
It has been a great ride for me,” Eric Weller told his colleagues at the December faculty meeting when they acknowledged his impending retirement following thirty-seven years of service to the college as philosophy professor and dean of the faculty. Weller said he had been “extraordinarily blessed to have had such splendid colleagues in the faculty, administration, and staff down through those years.” Weller holds the distinction of having served the college under four presidents: Val H. Wilson, Joseph C Palamountain Jr., David H. Porter, and Jamienne S. Studley.
Over nearly four decades, the impact of Weller’s leadership has been felt all across the college community, but it will be his efforts in curriculum revision that will be remembered by the largest Skidmore constituency, the student body.
Weller came to the college in 1963 to teach philosophy to a student body composed of 1,300 women. He came from the University of Rochester, where he was completing a doctorate in philosophy. His undergraduate degree in philosophy and psychology had been earned at Hofstra University in 1960. Over the years he taught courses in aesthetics, existentialism, philosophy of the social sciences, metaphysics, and, more recently, to today’s student body of 2,100 men and women he offered an advanced course in the philosophy of law. Although a continuous teaching member of the department of philosophy and religion, serving as its chair from 1991 through spring 2000, Weller also held several key administrative titles: faculty coordinator of the 4-1-4 program (1968-70), dean of studies (1970-76), and dean of the faculty (1976-90).
Professor of English Phyllis Roth, dean of the faculty from 1990 to 2000, in summing up her predecessor’s accomplishments, had this to say: “Among the challenges to be met and standards to be set, was the curriculum. No one has overseen more curricular revision than Eric Weller; no one taken more leadership over the years to try to assure that our students ‘get it.’ As a faculty member, Eric chaired the Committee on Educational Policy and Planning in 1967, which devised the innovative 4-1-4 program [with its “January term”], which he then coordinated for many years. Then he initiated and oversaw the major curriculum reform of the early 1980s, moving forward from what he had previously put in place. Recognizing that curricula must change periodically, Eric invested deeply but never intransigently in all of these revisions.” Committed as Weller was to the curriculum, Roth emphasized the he was also committed to building and developing the faculty, noting that “the numbers of brilliant and energetic faculty swelled during his tenure.”
Roth continued, “Eric managed in his years as dean to turn the onslaughts of both student and faculty initiatives into productive institutional practice and did so with fairness, with judiciousness, with integrity, and with a deep commitment to abiding academic values. It is these attributes that I have admired most of all—they have allowed Eric never to forget that the student and the rigors of the classroom come first.”
A surprise party cooked up in part by his wife, Patricia, and attended by two of their four children culminated in two “very unexpected honors” for Weller. When he learned that the Skidmore College trustees had voted to accord him the honor of retiring as the first dean of the faculty emeritus, he said it was “truly humbling,” and then when President Studley announced that the trustees had also voted to name the lounge area of Case Center’s new faculty-staff club in his honor, Weller owned up to being almost speechless.
“If it has been my good fortune to have made a difference, that has only been possible because of so many, past and present, whose hard work and loving commitment to Skidmore have made, and continue to make, it the very special place that it is.” —ACH