Kevin J. Madigan and Stephanie A. Paulsell will step down from their role as Eliot House faculty deans at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, citing an illness in their family in a Monday morning email announcement to House residents.
Madigan, a professor of ecclesiastical history, and Paulsell, a professor of the practice of Christian studies, will remain on the faculty of the Harvard Divinity School.
“This was a difficult decision for us because we love this house, the staff with whom we are privileged to work, and all of you. Being your Faculty Deans has been one of the great experiences of our lives,” the pair wrote in the email.
“Even with all the challenges of the last few years, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single minute of our life in this extraordinary community,” they added.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana appointed Madigan and Paulsell as faculty deans in June 2020 to lead the House at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic forced students off campus.
In a separate email to House affiliates, Khurana praised the deans’ leadership of Eliot.
“Stephanie and Kevin have been extraordinary leaders and ideal colleagues, and it is clear how much they care for each of you,” he wrote. “I will miss them dearly as Faculty Deans, as I am sure you will, but I am reassured that they will remain treasured community members.”
Eliot House Committee Co-Chair Delaney C. Jones ’24 said she was “shocked” when she read about the deans’ plans to step down, adding that their departure is a “big loss” for the House.
“They open their homes so often, and they constantly want to get to know students not just on an academic level, but a personal level,” Jones said.
Jon D. May ’25 credits Madigan and Paulsell for their role in creating a “unique culture” in Eliot.
“You could always count on them to be at events, to be in the dining hall meeting with students,” May said. “They were just very, very involved.”
In the coming weeks, the search process for the House’s next deans will begin, during which Khurana will solicit nominations from students, gauge interest from tenured faculty, and assemble a search committee to inform his final selection.
In their email, Madigan and Paulsell explained they had made their announcement early in order to kick off the search process this fall, in hopes of an announcement by January.
“Dean Khurana hopes to appoint new FDs before the spring semester so that you can begin to get to know them and they can begin to experience this vibrant, caring community for themselves before they start their term in July,” Madigan and Paulsell wrote.
May said he’s hopeful the committee can find “someone to fill their shoes.”
“But that’ll be a difficult job,” he added.