Dennis Berkey tapped as new WPI president
By David J. Craig
Dennis Berkey, who has served Boston University for 30 years as professor, dean, and provost, announced recently that he will become the next president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute on July 1.
In his current position as provost, Berkey is the University’s chief academic officer, responsible for the 14 schools and colleges on the Charles River Campus as well as numerous research centers, institutes, administrative offices, and educational and social programs.
“I have spent much of my career at Boston University, where I have had the opportunity to work alongside many wonderful colleagues,” Berkey says. “Over the past three decades, we have endeavored to make the University a stronger and better place, and we have enjoyed great success. I am grateful for the experiences I have had here, and I am looking forward now to applying the benefit of those experiences at another outstanding institution as its president.”
Berkey was among more than 130 candidates considered for the presidency of WPI, located in Worcester, Mass. The institution’s search for a new president began last September, following Edward Alton Parrish’s announcement that he would retire this year, after nine years in the position.
Leaving BU is “very difficult,” says Berkey, adding that he was drawn to WPI partly because its “strength in mathematics and science appealed to me, academically.”
Berkey came to BU in 1974 as an assistant professor of mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences. Acclaimed for his skills in the classroom, in 1978 he received the University’s highest teaching award, the Metcalf Cup and Prize, and was named chairman of the mathematics department. As a young teacher, he also served as a faculty resident for two years in the 1970s, living with his wife, Catherine, and their first child in Claflin Hall. In 1987, he became dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, as well as provost. He remained dean until 2002, and served twice as provost, from 1987 to 1991 and from 1996 to the present.
As dean of Arts and Sciences, Berkey oversaw the creation of the Core Curriculum and the Honors Program at CAS in the early 1990s, as well as the college’s program of intensive freshman writing seminars in the late 1990s. As provost, he is credited with bringing to the University many outstanding faculty, promoting excellence in teaching, and developing top-notch life sciences education and research programs — in part by recruiting in 1990 Human Genome Project pioneer and College of Engineering Dean Emeritus Charles DeLisi, BU’s Arthur G. B. Metcalf Professor of Science and Engineering and senior associate provost for bioscience. Berkey also created the Center for Excellence in Teaching and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
“What I look back on with the most pride is the pleasure of working with faculty and staff to help advance the University,” Berkey says. “That has been collaborative work, and it has been very rewarding.”
President ad interim Aram Chobanian recently conveyed to faculty and staff the news of Berkey’s move “with great pride and sadness.” He said that Berkey’s “significant contributions, academically and organizationally, will impact our University long after he has taken up residence in Central Massachusetts. I would like to thank him personally for helping to make Boston University a stronger, more diverse, and internationally recognized institution of higher education.”
The author of two calculus textbooks and many academic papers, Berkey says that his well-known passion for BU Terrier sports won’t be squelched by his departure. “There’s actually a tradition among area college and university presidents of following BU Terrier hockey,” he says. “I know Tufts President Larry Bacow is a close friend of BU hockey coach Jack Parker and comes to BU games. I expect that sometimes I’ll be doing the same.”
Catherine Berkey (GRS’75) will continue her work as a health researcher at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital after the Berkeys relocate from Weston, Mass., to Worcester.
13 May 2004