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Lewis Pyenson selected as dean of Graduate College

March 28, 2006

KALAMAZOO--As the result of a national search, Dr. Lewis R. Pyenson, a research professor and historian at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, is set to assume the role of dean of the Western Michigan University Graduate College, effective June 15.

A scholar with extensive international experience, Pyenson served as dean of Louisiana's Graduate School for six years, from 1995 to 2001, before moving to his current role as research professor at the Center for Louisiana Studies and professor of history. Pyenson, whose academic focus is the history of science, also is an adjunct professor of physics, philosophy, modern languages and cognitive science at UL-Lafayette, a school with some 16,000 students, including nearly 1,700 at the graduate level.

Pyenson's background includes faculty affiliations with such schools as the universities of Toronto and Montreal and the Virtual University of Quilmes in Argentina. He also has served as a visiting fellow at Princeton and as Suntory lecturer at four Japanese universities. In addition, he served in 2000 as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Argentina at the Ethnographical Museum in Buenos Aires, the Atomic Research Center in Bariloche and the Cordoba Academy of Sciences. In 2005, he lectured as the George Sarton Chair at the University of Ghent in Belgium, and he is the recipient of the 2006 Herbert C. Pollock Award of the Dudley Observatory in Schenectady, New York.

"Dr. Pyenson brings with him a successful track record in graduate program leadership as well as a wealth of experience as an active scholar in his own right," says Dr. Linda Delene, WMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. "His background is an unusual blend of science and the humanities that I think will be invaluable in his work here at WMU. This University will benefit from his energetic leadership and creativity as well as the unique point of view that comes from his own research and writing. He will also participate in the comprehensive review of graduate programs now under way."

A prolific writer, Pyenson is the author or co-author of six books and scores of book chapters and professional articles. His books include "The Young Einstein: The Advent of Relativity," "The Art of Teaching Physics," co-edited with Jean-François Gauvin, and "Servants of Nature: A History of Scientific Institutions, Enterprises, and Sensibilities," which he wrote with co-author Susan Sheets-Pyenson.

Pyenson says he's eager to begin his new role and expects to visit campus several times before his official start date. He notes that his conversations with colleagues around the world in recent weeks have revealed a wealth of good will and shown him the breadth of the University's reputation.

"Western has a strong presence internationally, and I've been pleased at the number of different graduate programs people talk about when I bring up WMU," Pyenson says. "What really strikes me, across the board, is the strength of the programs and the encouraging balance between professional and traditional academic programs on campus. And the quality of the facilities is really impressive."

Pyenson says he sees great potential for the University as a whole and its graduate programs in particular.

"This is a time of great change in higher education," he notes, "but I think it's also a time of opportunity for enterprising institutions to rise to national prominence."

Pyenson serves on the advisory board for the journals History of Science (Cambridge) and Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences (Berkeley). He also is on the international advisory board for Japanese and Argentine journals focused on science history. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a corresponding member of the International Academy of History of Science in Paris, and an elected member of Sigma Xi and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.

He earned a bachelor's degree with honors in physics from Swarthmore College in 1969, a master's degree in physics from the University of Wyoming in 1970 and a doctoral degree in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University in 1974.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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