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Contact: Suzanne Trimel
October 7, 1996

Lindt Will Step Down as General Studies Dean

Gillian Lindt will step down as dean of the School of General Studies at the end of the current academic year and, after a sabbatical leave, will retire as professor of religion in 1998, she announced last week.

Dean Lindt, who will turn 65 this year, was named acting dean of the school in 1994 and dean last year. Under her leadership, General Studies was reorganized to create a more sharply focused school with a renewed emphasis on undergraduate education leading to the Bachelor of Arts and Science degrees.

In a letter to faculty, Dean Lindt said, "My promise was that I would not leave until we had successfully weathered the pains of transition. We have achieved that goal."

She said General Studies, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, was a revitalized institution and praised dedicated alumni, students, faculty and administration in key areas. "In the past year, alumni gifts increased by over 100 percent. Several key leadership appointments and a revitalization of the administrative staff is yielding significant improvements in admissions, enrollments and student services. Students today work closely with the administration to develop programs," she said. In addition, she cited renovations to the school's physical location in Lewisohn Hall and a balanced budget as evidence of the improved status of General Studies.

She added that more work remained "to ensure that we meet the goals that we have set for the school. I will do my utmost to ensure that we don't miss a beat in these final months as dean."

Columbia President George Rupp said, "For 23 years, Columbia has benefited from Gillian Lindt's magnificent combination of talents. She has been a devoted teacher, skillful administrator and an accomplished scholar. The School of General Studies has been particularly fortunate during this period of transition to have a dean so dedicated to excellence. All of us will miss her generosity, grace and wisdom."

During her sabbatical she plans to complete two books in progress, one a study of Jim Jones's ill-fated People's Temple and the other a biography of Nickolas von Zinzendorf, Pietist founder of the Moravian Brethren.

A search committee is being formed to recommend a new dean to President Rupp.

A scholar at Columbia since 1973 and an authority on religious sects and cults in America from the colonial period to the present, Dean Lindt previously served as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1984 to 1989.

David Cohen, vice president for Arts and Sciences, said: "I regret that I could not persuade Gill to continue beyond her current term as dean. Gill generously deferred her personal academic plans to assume the deanship. She now feels that those plans can no longer be delayed. I will certainly feel the loss of an exceedingly competent and dedicated dean and a wise counselor."

Dr. Cohen praised her skills in orchestrating the reorganization of General Studies, which now enrolls approximately 1,000 candidates for the bachelor's degree and 300 post-baccalaureate pre-medical students taking undergraduate courses to qualify for entrance to medical school. Other programs, some of which enroll non-degree students taking credit courses, such as the American Language, Continuing Education, and Summer Session programs, were organized under a separate Division of Special Programs under the leadership of Dean Frank Wolfe.

"She implemented an impressive administrative reorganization, stabilizing enrollments, and revitalizing fundraising," Dr. Cohen said.

The School of General Studies serves students who have not taken the traditional high school-to-college path. Many are returning to school full-time from careers or studying part-time while working and/or raising families. The school traces its roots to 1930 when President Duer inaugurated the first Literary and Scientific Course of Study open to men "employed in mercantile and industrial establishments." A new initiative of Extension Teaching began at Columbia in 1904. Reorganized into a division of University Extension authorized to offer a Bachelor's degree in 1921, it became a separate School of General Studies in 1947.

Dean Lindt is a scholar of religious movements and the sociology of religion with particular reference to 19th and 20th century Western Europe and America. Born in London, she graduated from the University of London in 1954. She earned the M.A. at Columbia in 1955 and taught in the School of General Studies before completing her Ph.D. in sociology in 1965. She held faculty appointments at Rutgers, Howard and American universities before returning to Columbia in 1973 as professor of religion.