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Longtime College of the Arts dean to retire, interim leadership named

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H. Gordon Brooks, the first dean of the College of the Arts at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is retiring.

Michael McClure, the college’s associate dean since 2013 and a professor in the School of Architecture and Design since 2001, will be interim dean until Brooks’ successor is named.

Brooks’ 27-year tenure makes him the longest serving dean among the current leadership of UL Lafayette’s eight academic colleges. He’s also the longest serving arts dean in the nation.

Brooks became dean when the School of Art and Architecture merged with the School of Music to establish the College of the Arts in 1994. He was director of the School of Art and Architecture, a role he assumed when he first came to the University in 1990. 

“Gordon has served the University and its students faithfully and well for more than three decades,” said Dr. Jaimie Hebert, UL Lafayette provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “Our College of the Arts is a cultural and aesthetic force in this community and beyond – and that’s because of the leadership Gordon has provided since its earliest days.”

As dean, Brooks oversaw the creation of new academic programs, including bachelor’s degrees in industrial design and music business, and helped implement the University’s first distance learning program. He also initiated the annual Beaux Arts Ball and ArTech Fusion as opportunities to showcase student and faculty work being done within the college.

In a letter to faculty and staff announcing his retirement, Brooks noted that the College of the Arts has grown in course offerings, faculty expertise and student enrollment during his three-decade tenure.

“While that is significant, I am most proud of maintaining our quality all along. We have added several programs, achieved accreditations, and have created institutes within the college – all of which have had significant impacts,” Brooks wrote.

Brooks’ departure has resulted in several leadership changes within the college.

In addition to McClure’s new role as interim dean, Dr. Jonathan Kulp, director of the School of Music and Performing Arts, has been named interim associate dean. Sara Birk, associate professor of theater, will serve as Kulp’s interim successor.

Kulp joined UL Lafayette’s music faculty in 2001 and became director of the School of Music and Performing Arts in 2016. Birk has taught theater at UL Lafayette since 2009 and was coordinator of theater for the past four years.

In addition, Kari Smith has been named director of the School of Architecture and Design after serving as its interim director since 2019. A professor of architecture, she joined UL Lafayette’s faculty in 2007.

Photo caption: Top row, from left, are H. Gordon Brooks, Michael McClure and Jonathan Kulp. Bottom row, from left, are Sara Birk and Kari Smith. (Photo credit: University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

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