Alan D. Solomont, the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, will be retiring at the end of the academic year, according to an email sent out to the Tufts community on Sept. 14.
After multiple successful civil service careers, including serving as the United States ambassador to Spain and Andorra under President Barack Obama, Solomont (A’70) assumed his role as dean of Tisch College in 2014, which allowed him to apply his learned skills and explore a new field.
“I’ve been very lucky in my career and been able to do a lot of civic work, political work, but I didn’t want to pick up where I left off. I thought it was a good opportunity to do something different,” Solomont said.
Peter Levine, associate dean of academic affairs for Tisch College and Lincoln Filene professor of citizenship and public affairs, explained that Solomont dedicated his life to public service, which gave him the tools necessary to lead a college about civic life.
“He’s been a leader in the effort to renew civic life in America for some 20 years or so. He kind of cut his teeth originally in community organizing, but then in politics and in partisan politics. But he’s become a leader of really nonpartisan efforts to improve civic life,” he said.
Levine also teaches Introduction to Civic Studies, which is a course offered by Tisch College, alongside Newhouse Professor of Civic Studies Brian Schaffner.
Levine, who has worked closely with Dean Solomont for years, said he is leaving an important legacy behind.
“His impact’s been enormous,” he said.
Diane Ryan, associate dean for programs and administration at Tisch College, echoed Levine’s statements about Solomont’s impact. She explained that Solomont’s lifetime success across multiple careers inspired her and made her want to work with him.
“I came to Tisch College for Alan Solomont,” Ryan said.
Solomont has been at the forefront of much of the development Tisch College has undergone in the last few years.
“He rarely meets a good idea that he doesn’t want to explore to the fullest extent,” Ryan said.
This spirit has led Solomont to establish Tisch College as an important part of Tufts University as well as the larger sphere of civic life and studies.
“He has really helped to move Tisch to the center of the university, and built these really enduring connections with the other schools,” Ryan said.
Levine, who has also played a major role in Tisch College’s development by bringing the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) to Tufts from the University of Maryland, shared Ryan’s thoughts.
“Lots of people who are doing voter turnout or redistricting reform or these kinds of things know Tisch College as a player, and it really wasn’t a player before Alan,” Levine said.
Solomont said he is proud of his involvement in elevating Tisch College’s stature within the Tufts community and beyond.
“Our research is known nationally, and it’s probably some of the most important research on the civic and political engagement of young people. And it’s applied research, it’s being used every day by candidates and campaigns and grassroots organizations and nonprofits,” Solomont said.
Solomont added that he wanted to continue to serve as dean through the end of this academic year to be in his role for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Tisch College and the 2020 election. He made the announcement this month because he wanted to give the search team adequate time to find a new dean to lead his colleagues before he leaves.
“I’ve worked with an incredible group of people who are incredibly mission-driven, who do this work because they believe deeply in the importance of civic life, the importance of rebuilding our civic institutions and repairing our democracy,” Solomont said.
However, even though he is stepping down, Solomont said he does not consider himself to be retiring in the traditional sense. He said he feels that this is the right moment to pass the role onto someone who can breathe some fresh air into the deanship and the college.
“He might not be the dean anymore, but I will find it very hard to believe that he will not continue to be an important part of Tisch College,” Ryan said. “I still think he’s going to be a tremendous presence.”