Arts & Sciences advising chief honored for kindness to students

By: Kathy Hovis,  A&S Communications
May 17, 2017

The career of David DeVries, associate dean of undergraduate education in the College of Arts & Sciences, was celebrated with music from the Big Red Pep Band, as well as kind words and a serenade from Glenn Altschuler, at a retirement event May 8 in Klarman Hall.

“David is one of the most compassionate people I have ever encountered,” said Altschuler, the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies and dean of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions. “David cares deeply for students, while at the same time understanding that being candid and applying rigorously the rules and regulations of the institution is in the student’s best interest, as well as in the interest of fairness.”

During his talk, Altschuler also took some liberties with the Maurice Chevalier song “Louise.”

“Every little breeze seems to whisper DeVries,” Altschuler crooned in his best Chevalier impersonation. “Birds in the trees seem to twitter DeVries.”

Colleagues in the admissions and advising offices shared similar sentiments.

“There was a certain wisdom that David has that makes you want to do your job better and be a better individual,” said Richard Keller, an advising dean who worked with DeVries for the last six years. “I also connected with David because of his sense of humor. It was so inviting and so relaxing. He made everyone in that office feel special.”

Pat Wasyliw, another advising dean, joined the office the same year as DeVries.

“David would always see the right path to take,” she said. “He balanced compassion for students with respect for the college and would always look for the most positive solution.”

DeVries’ work was also celebrated at the dedication of Klarman Hall last spring, as the family of a Cornell student helped by DeVries donated funds for the David N. DeVries courtyard, which sits at the south end of Klarman Hall.

“David offered our students calm and compassionate advice and was a valued leader in the college,” said Gretchen Ritter ‘83, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts & Sciences.

DeVries taught for eight years at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, serving as associate dean of Hobart College during his last two years there. He joined Cornell's College of Arts & Sciences in 2000.

“I had a wonderful staff, which made life easier, and there was a lot of laughter in that office, which made our work more manageable and bearable,” DeVries said of his Cornell staff, adding that he will miss the staff and students greatly.

DeVries has published essays on a variety of subjects including Chaucer, the Pearl-poet, medieval London, the Scottish medieval poet William Dunbar and on the poetry Herman Melville wrote in reaction to the Civil War. He has a PhD in English Literature from New York University.

Plans for the future include travel and a few writing projects “that have been on the back burner for a while,” DeVries said, including some work probing family diaries from the late 1800s and early 1900s that he discovered at the farm where his mother was raised.

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