The Compassionate Dean

January 6th, 2011

In 1974 I was an uncertain comparative literature major when I decided to take a leave of absence from the University. To do so, I had to consult with Barrett Hazeltine, the associate dean of the College at the time.

Dean Hazeltine contacted a professor at Northeastern University who placed students in jobs in West Germany, and through him I secured a paid position for six months at a government agency in Frankfurt. The time I spent in that city turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. I returned to Brown fluent in German, became a German major, and returned to Germany to live for a year after graduation. I have kept my connection to the German language and German culture to this day.

My stay in Germany led to an interesting side story. While in Frankfurt I was befriended by the Henckel von Donnersmarck family, who lived in a beautiful apartment below my lowly attic room, which had only a sink and no bathroom. The family offered me their shower and the run of their apartment on the condition that I baby sit their very young sons while they went out. We remained friends for several years, but I eventually lost touch with them.

Imagine my surprise when in 2006 I discovered that one of my young charges, Florian, had become a director whose film The Lives of Others won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. His latest film, The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, premiered recently in New York. Thank you, Dean Hazeltine.

Jim Glass '77
Los Angeles


Barrett Hazeltine must have been an assistant dean of the College in 1968 when I met him second semester of freshman year. I had just flunked introductory chemistry, dashing my childhood dream of becoming a chemist. Someone in University Hall said, "The only person who can help you with your problem is Dean Hazeltine," and she was right.

His approach was direct and efficient. "Do you still like chemistry?" he asked. The answer was, "Yes, I'm not ready to give up my dreams yet." He asked, "Is there anything else you like?" I knew what I said next would sound silly, but he had so fully disarmed me that I confessed, "I've always wondered if there is a way for chemistry to explain the mind." He didn't even laugh, but suggested I consider a combined degree program in chemistry and psychology.

Even before Ira Magaziner '69 introduced what became the New Curriculum, Hazeltine knew of an arcane university rule allowing students to work in two areas concurrently and get a degree in five years. He allowed me to retake freshman chemistry and to take the time to complete the requirements for a ScB. The bonus was that for an additional one-year investment, I could cover the tracks of my freshman confusion with a second AB in psychology, thus availing me of some of the most fascinating courses at the University.

My entire interview with Hazeltine lasted about ten minutes, but I have often wondered since how one person could be so perceptive, compassionate, and encouraging.

Darrell D. Davidson '71

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January/February 2011