Joseph R. Urgo, professor and chair of the Department of English at the University of Mississippi, has been named Hamilton's new dean of the faculty. He will join the campus community in July.
As the chief academic officer, Urgo will lead the 183-member faculty and oversee the College Library; the Registrar's Office; the Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center; the Emerson Gallery; Hamilton's programs in Paris, Madrid, Beijing, Washington, D.C., and New York City; intercollegiate athletics; and several other academic support programs and centers. He also joins the English department as a professor.
"I was attracted to Hamilton because of its liberal arts tradition, its reputation for teaching students to write well and its strong sense of community," Urgo said. "More importantly, Hamilton has one of the finest faculties in the country. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with such a talented and committed group of teacher-scholars."
A native of Hartford, Conn., Urgo received his bachelor's degree in 1978 from Haverford College with a major in political science. He holds a master's degree from Wesleyan University and a master's and Ph.D. from Brown University.
At Mississippi, Urgo oversees a department of 40 full-time faculty members as well as the freshman composition program, the speech program, the writing center and the freshman seminar program. He has led several curricular revisions and served on university committees and task forces that addressed general education, racial reconciliation, faculty governance, internships, interdisciplinary programs and the establishment of residential colleges.
"Joe is a remarkable leader," said University of Mississippi Provost Carolyn Staton. "It is fair to say that from everybody's perspective, he was the most highly regarded leader of any committee or task force. He is efficient, balanced, fair to all interests, innovative and a tremendous consensus builder."
Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi, concurred. "In his six years on this campus Dr. Urgo has been, from the very beginning, a strong advocate for academic excellence. The Department of English has prospered under his leadership, and the many responsibilities he has taken on outside the department have enriched the university as a whole."
Prior to arriving at the University of Mississippi in 2000, Urgo was a member of the Bryant College faculty for 11 years. He also taught as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in American Studies and assistant professor of English at Vanderbilt University from 1986-89, as a visiting assistant professor of English at Syracuse University from 1985-86 and as a teaching fellow while earning his Ph.D. at Brown University from 1983-85.
He received the Bryant College Alumni Association's Distinguished Faculty Award in 2000. Four years later, a $100,000 endowment created the Lindsay McCauley Kirkley Women's Council Scholarship in his honor at The University of Mississippi.
br>Urgo's research interests focus on the work of 20th-century American novelists and writers William Faulkner and Willa Cather. He has published four books, including Willa Cather and the Myth of American Migration, and edited or co-edited a half dozen volumes in addition to nearly 40 articles and chapters.
Urgo is married to Lesley Dretar Urgo, a native of Akron, Ohio. They have one son, George, a sophomore religious studies major at Haverford College. "We value local culture above all else," Urgo said. "In Rhode Island we were beachcombers; in Mississippi we became blues aficionados. Now, we are eager to experience Hamilton's community in and around Clinton, New York."
Urgo succeeds David Paris '71, who served a five-year appointment as vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty, during which he guided the implementation of the new curriculum, oversaw a Mellon-funded initiative for post-tenure faculty development and evolved a new model for departmental planning.