After almost two decades of administrative service at Geneseo, President Christopher Dahl officially began his transition into retirement on Tuesday Oct. 1. Interim President Carol Long stepped up to take his place as he started his leave of absence, which will end with his official retirement on June 30, 2014. “These are very hard shoes to fill because Chris Dahl is an amazing leader,” said Milne Library Director Cyril Oberlander, who has held various positions in Milne for roughly the past five years. “He is articulate, intelligent and personable, which is a unique combination. His focus on quality education is something that inspires us all. Thankfully, Carol Long is a great provost and visionary, and we’re confident this will be an excellent transition.”
Coming to Geneseo in 1994, Dahl first served as the provost for one year before taking on the role of interim president in 1995. Dahl was appointed president in February 1996 and is now the longest-serving president of any four-year State University of New York institution. Throughout his time at Geneseo, Dahl also occasionally taught classes through the English department.
Dahl said that he considered his experience teaching ENGL 314: British Romanticism alongside Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Eugene Stelzig to be among his favorite memories at Geneseo.
“If I have any regrets, it’s that I wish I had been able to teach more,” Dahl said.
Dahl said he believes that his greatest accomplishment during his time as president was “keeping the college focused on its mission as a public liberal arts college.”
“What we believe in has to do with the education of the whole human being,” he said. “What we’re doing here is liberal education of the highest quality.”
According to Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Ronald Herzman, who is the longest-serving Geneseo professor, Dahl can be credited with keeping Geneseo’s priorities straight.
“[Dahl] is somebody who believes very deeply in the search for truth and that universities should be about that at every level,” Herzman said. “He has guided and kept us on a path where he has put his energy into making that a top priority.”
To commemorate Dahl’s final week at Geneseo, members of the college community came together to recognize his impact and say their goodbyes.
In honor of Dahl’s impact in the Geneseo community, Village Mayor Richard Hatheway officially recognized Sept. 26 as Christopher C. Dahl Day. Later that day, during a meet and greet with students in the College Union, Starbucks revealed that it created a Geneseo-exclusive specialty drink in honor of Dahl named “All Dahl’d Up.” This drink is an Earl Grey tea latte with a shot of vanilla, reminiscent of Dahl’s typical order at Starbucks.
On Sept. 27, alumni, students, faculty and donors gathered to celebrate Dahl’s career and accomplishments. The evening began with a grazing-station dinner under a tent on the College Green, where students performed and Geneseo received a donation that helped it reach its fundraising goal of $23 million.
“[Dahl] leaves a fond legacy and generational impact on our society,” donor and attendee Carl Savino ‘50 said.
“He is legendary to the institution,” Director of Alumni and Parent Relations Ronna Bosko, also in attendance, said. “Alums across the country have been impacted by his leadership. He has laid a strong foundation for Geneseo to see many successes to come.”
The event then transitioned into a program in Wadsworth Auditorium where students and faculty performed in celebration of Dahl’s time at Geneseo. Dahl’s wife Ruth Rowse was inducted as an honorary alumna of Geneseo during this program as well. The evening of events concluded with a fireworks display overlooking the Genesee Valley.
With his goodbyes said, Dahl began his nine-month Title F Leave on Tuesday Oct. 1. During this time, he will pursue several scholarly research projects and advancement work for Geneseo through alumni and donor networking, and will advise Long as she steps into the interim presidency.
“[Long] has liberal arts education in her bones,” Dahl said. “She really understands our mission and history … I think she has the Geneseo style.” According to Dahl, this will make the transition between himself and the next permanent college president a lot smoother.
Dahl said he estimates that the search for a new permanent president will take approximately two years, during which time Long will serve in an executive capacity.
“I am very excited, pleased and honored to be able to take on this position,” Long said. “I love Geneseo, and I am excited to be able to help it along during this transition time.”
Long said that she does not have any major structural changes in mind as she takes on the role of interim president. Rather, she said that she intends to continue to “aggressively pursue” the initiatives already on deck. These include creating a new internationalization laboratory through the American Council on Education, proposing a diversity plan, applying for the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement award, carrying forward curriculum reforms that are under discussion, dealing with various SUNY initiatives and developing a philosophy for digital learning on campus.
Long said she expects that Dahl’s transition into retirement will be a sad time for Geneseo because he has been the “face of the institution” for so long.
Dahl said that what he will miss most about Geneseo is the “day-to-day interaction with colleagues, faculty and students.”
“I’ve never met a Geneseo student that I didn’t like,” he said.
Even after he fully retires, Dahl said that he will remain connected to the Geneseo community.
“I’m willing to do anything to help the college,” he said.
In the upcoming months, Dahl and his wife will be moving to Ann Arbor, Mich. where he said he hopes to be able to do his research and work with students at the University of Michigan.