Staff and faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences wished a happy retirement Dec. 14 to Dave Taylor, the College’s associate dean of administration, who leaves the position after 12 years. His successor, Warren Petrofsky, who currently serves as the chief infrastructure officer in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, will join Cornell Jan. 11.
“Dave has had a lasting impact on our college, helping steer us through multiple economic downturns, the fits and starts of various building projects, the uncertainty caused by a global unforeseen pandemic and the whims and vagaries of three deans,” said Ray Jayawardhana, Harold Tanner Dean of Arts & Sciences, Hans A. Bethe Professor and Professor of Astronomy. “I am grateful for the institutional knowledge, skilled diplomacy and good humor he has brought to these efforts.”
After spending many years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, Taylor came to Cornell in 2005 to help run the Naval ROTC unit. After retiring from that post, Taylor was hired by the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology as its administrative manager, before being recruited for the dean’s office job in 2011.
“As a former lieutenant colonel in the Marines, he knew a thing or two about taking charge of his tasks and getting things done,” said Barbara Baird, the Horace White Professor of chemistry and chemical biology, who was chair of the department when Taylor served there. “He could get to the heart of a problem and communicate directly, but with a disarming sense of humor.”
Brian Crane, professor of chemistry and the current department chair, said Taylor would fit well as an example within the covers of a book by David Brooks, “The Road to Character.”
“He is really a man of character and someone I’ve come to admire greatly over the years,” he said. “I also appreciate his pragmatic approach to things and his overall common sense and good reason.”
Taylor said he was thankful that Baird “took a chance on the infantry guy,” when she hired him. “In the beginning, I didn’t know the difference between a teaching assistant and a teaching associate, but you learn really quickly.”
What Taylor did know was how to manage projects and people and how to handle change.
“I was used to moving every few years and having a new job,” he said.
All of the College’s functional directors – budget and finance, human resources, facilities, information technology and the Temple of Zeus — report to Taylor, and his office also supports all of the College’s 40 departments and programs.
“There’s a genuine sense of community in the College,” Taylor said. “I wanted the department managers to feel like this office supports what they are doing.”
One of his priorities was to set up standard procedures for common issues like faculty offers, retention efforts, staff pay bands and renovation projects.
“I’ve tried very hard to codify the things we were doing so that we could be fair, equitable and consistent with our policies, no matter who we’re dealing with,” he said.
Taylor said he is looking forward to spending more time outside, hunting and shooting and working to build a cabin on a piece of land he owns.