On February 7, in an email to faculty and staff, Head of School Dr. Margarita Curtis announced the appointment of Dr. Ivory Hills as Academic Dean. Dr. Hills will take over for interim Academic Dean Mr. Joe Lyons on July 1, 2017.
At Deerfield, Dr. Hills serves as a Chemistry instructor, the Director of Sustainability, and the Director of the KIPP Step Summer Program. He has also worked with the Rising Scholars Program and the Experimentory.
Dr. Hills earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry at MIT and then worked as a research scientist at Merck Pharmaceuticals for over five years before coming to teach at Deerfield in 2011.
In her announcement, Dr. Curtis mentioned that at Merck, Dr. Hills “held managerial responsibility for the research efforts of four scientists and also worked collaboratively with teams of six to twenty scientists,” which, she explained, will enable Dr. Hills to bring “a different professional background and expertise to the school, and as such, he will richly complement the skill set of other members of senior staff, and provide fresh perspectives on the issues at hand.”
According to the job description, the Academic Dean’s responsibilities are to “oversee all aspects of the curriculum, explore new research in the field of education, identify topics and leverage discussion regarding best practices in adolescent education, and lead the faculty and staff who support student academic matters.” Other duties include supervising Academic Honor Committee (AHC) hearings, interviewing prospective faculty, co-chairing the Academic Standing Committee and Alternate Studies Committee, and more.
Mr. Lyons believes that “Dr. Hills’s respect for Deerfield students and faculty, his sharp analytical skills, and his calm demeanor will serve Deerfield well.”
Dr. Hills became interested in the position because he saw it as a chance “to ensure that our curriculum… continues to be relevant for students, [as] the world is changing rapidly.”
One of Dr. Hills’ goals is to help “students to be properly challenged and not overwhelmed,” and faculty to feel “supported, valued, and excited and rejuvenated by their profession.” In taking over this new role, he hopes to still teach chemistry, and intends to spend the first year as Academic Dean learning from faculty, students, and families.
He also wants “students to be aware that they can come to [him] for anything.”
Dr. Curtis emphasized that “Dr. Hills has not only demonstrated high professional standards and a consistent pursuit of excellence in a number of areas, but also displayed a generosity of spirit, and a level of commitment to the community that creates an affirming, caring culture for all.”