Grimes Steps Down as Dean of FCLC, Wertz Fills Interim Position




On June 21, the Office of the President announced that Rev. Robert Grimes, S.J., Fordham University’s longest-serving dean, would not return to his position as dean of Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC) during the 2018-19 academic year—instead, Frederick J. Wertz, Ph.D, will serve as interim dean with Grimes filling the newly-created position of vice dean.

Beginning in fall 2018, the university will launch its search for a new dean to begin acting the following academic year. The process will be conducted under recommendations from the Arts and Sciences Working Group, which the Office of the President describes as “a group of faculty and administrators that has been meeting to reimagine the function and structure of the Arts and Sciences at Fordham.” The specific operations of the group have been largely kept under wraps since its creation, even as they continue to play a significant role in reshaping the university.

Dr. Stephen M. Freedman, Ph.D, the Fordham University provost, has confirmed that Wertz and Grimes’ appointments, as well as any future appointments under the Arts and Sciences Working Group’s recommendations, will aim to further the college’s current goals of developing new programs for students and increasing communication between Lincoln Center and Rose Hill. These goals fall in line with the objective of integrating FCLC into the Fordham family that Grimes pursued during his time as dean.

Grimes’ appointment as vice dean follows a 20-year career as dean of Lincoln Center, during which he led the administration in increasing student enrollment, creating new undergraduate degrees and, most notably, integrating the Lincoln Center campus into the Fordham community. Freedman said Grimes’ impact on the college is evident “not only in terms of enrollment and programs…but in terms of facilities and working to ensure the student experience is individualized and strong.”

He noted that future plans aim to enhance the university’s current trajectory and provide “synergy” between the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses that will make it easier for students to enroll in programming, generate inter-campus collaboration and strengthen ties between faculty.

Objectives for deans and the working group in upcoming years include integrating new programming into the undergraduate curriculum and working with department chairs to strengthen opportunities for undergraduate and graduate research in the arts and sciences.

Wertz served as acting dean during the 2017-18 academic year after Grimes stepped down due to health complications. During this time, Wertz took up many of Grimes’ initiatives to stimulate the growth of new programs for students across majors, including the creation of courses in information and computer sciences such as data analytics and cyber security, as well as new courses in digital design.

Freedman said Wertz’s dedication and ability to engage faculty during his time as acting dean factored into his appointment as interim dean. Freedman said of Wertz: “He encouraged faculty to…think through programs and curriculum at FCLC that are distinctive and speak to the location and the school in terms of its future.”

Wertz expressed specific interest in welcoming diversity on campus as an effort to create an accepting campus climate and to battle injustice in line with Jesuit tradition. While he did not offer specific details on programming, Wertz confirmed that he would promote this objective through the campus’ “local climate” in collaboration with Chief Diversity Officer Rafael Zapata.

Grimes’ title of vice dean is a new position whose preliminary duties entail “special projects and initiatives,” which Freedman said would become better defined as the year progressed. He also said that Grimes will work closely with the dean, administrators, and senior leadership to help them reach “higher administrative opportunities” and will also be able to continue the broader strategic work of which Grimes’ Fordham career has consisted. Following his year as Vice Dean, Grimes will take a year-long research sabbatical and return to Fordham for the 2020-21 year as a university professor and dean emeritus.

“Father Grimes as a Jesuit has been a very significant leader…in terms of the mission of the institution,” Freedman said of the new vice dean’s impact on Fordham over the last 20 years. “Not only at FLC, but across the university, he’s been a strong and distinguished Jesuit leader, and that role as a Jesuit leader will continue into the future.”

A previous version of this article identified the university provost as Stephen J. Freedman. His name is Stephen M. Freedman.