Dean Shinagel Steps Down

Dean of the Division of Continuing Education Michael Shinagel will be stepping down after almost 40 years of leadership, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith announced in an email to faculty members this afternoon.

Since becoming dean in 1975, Shinagel founded the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement and oversaw the approval of masters’ degree programs at the Extension School.

“I can appreciate how a new leader at DCE will take us through the next 20 years, but I need not tell you how bittersweet I feel about leaving the deanship after all these years,” Shinagel wrote in an email statement to The Crimson. Shinagel could not be reached at his office by phone as of yesterday afternoon.

According to Smith’s email, Shinagel will step down as soon as administrators conclude a nationwide search for the next dean, who will take the helm of an array of operations in FAS—including the Harvard Extension School, the Harvard Summer School, and the Harvard DCE Program for Professional Development.

Despite arriving at Harvard more than a half-century ago—he taught his first freshman English section in the fall of 1958 before receiving a Ph.D. in English from the University and teaching at Cornell University and Union College in Schenectady, NY for 11 years. Shinagel still possesses an unwavering commitment to the institution, and dean is only one of his long list of roles here.


Shinagel served as master of Quincy House from 1986 to 2001, president of the Faculty Club, and a member of the Faculty Council, the FAS governing body. He plans to remain a senior lecturer in the English department, where he has taught since 1983.

“He was completely devoted to Quincy House,” said Lee Gehrke, who serves as co-master of the House today. “He’s probably the most loyal member of the Senior Common Room.”

Gehrke fondly cited Shinagel’s dry humor and love of scotch and cigars, adding that one of the dean’s best qualities is his deep understanding of Harvard’s history.

In fact, Shinagel won the Philip E. Frandson Award for the best book on continuing higher education for ‘The Gates Unbarred: A History of University Extension at Harvard, 1910–2009’ in 2010. The book details former University President A. Lawrence Lowell’s efforts to expand the reach of education through initiatives such as the Harvard Extension School and online courses.

According to Smith, an event will be held in the coming spring to honor Shinagel’s contributions to the Harvard community.

For now, Shinagel drew from the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius to describe his tenure as dean.

“‘If you find work that you really enjoy, you won’t have to work a day in your life!’” Shinagel quoted from the famous thinker. “My 38 years at DCE have confirmed this truism every day.”

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:


An earlier version of this article stated that Lee Gehrke succeeded Michael Shinagel as master of Quincy House. While Gehrke, a current House master, did follow Shinagel in the role, Shinagel was not Gehrke’s immediate predecessor.


Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of the outgoing dean of the Division of Continuing Education in its headline. He is Michael Shinagel, not Michael Shinagle.


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