Pitt announced researcher and medical doctor Brian A. Primack as the new dean of the University Honors College Monday.
Primack will succeed Edward Stricker as the third Bernice L. and Morton S. Lerner Chair and dean of the UHC, beginning July 1. Primack’s primary responsibilities as dean will be overseeing the financial and administrative operations of the UHC, which is currently in its 31st year.
Pitt provost and senior vice chancellor Patricia E. Beeson said in a press release that she believes Primack will be able to ensure the Honors College persists in being the intellectual core of the Pitt community.
“Under Dr. Primack’s leadership, I am confident that the University Honors College will continue to serve as the center of gravity for our most academically engaged and curious undergraduate students and as a hub of intellectual activity for our entire university community,” Beeson said. “His broad and inclusive vision is well-matched to our aspirations for the UHC and the University.”
Stricker, who has served as dean since 2011, will be returning to a teaching position in the Department of Neuroscience this fall as he first declared when he announced in June 2016 that he was planning to step down.
Students active in the UHC complained in 2012 that he had shifted UHC policies away from the emphasis that the first dean and founder of Pitt’s UHC, G. Alec Stewart, placed on intellectual curiosity. Students wrote a letter to Stricker expressing their concerns.
“For us, the promise of an institution that promotes intellectual curiosity as its core value is what made the choice to come to Pitt so easy,” the letter said. “Nonetheless, we are deeply concerned that the value of intellectual curiosity is being de-emphasized at the service of achievement-oriented principles.”
Stricker responded to complaints by claiming that the Honors College was not solely a vehicle for pure intellectual curiosity.
“[Intellectual curiosity] is incidental but true,” he told The Pitt News in November 2012. “I wouldn’t say it’s the only thing [the UHC] does or the most important.”
According to the position profile for the University Honors College dean, Primack’s other duties will include collaborating with the UHC community to develop and implement new plans, recruiting faculty from across the University to engage with students, and promoting the UHC to current and prospective students and families. The dean is also expected to teach at least one honors course each year.
Primack is a Pitt alumnus, having earned a Master of Science in clinical science in 2008 and a Ph.D. in translational science in 2011. Primack also practiced medicine at various medical centers including UPMC hospitals and the student health services centers at both Pitt and Carnegie Mellon.
During his time at the University, Primack has founded Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health in 2012 and earned numerous awards for his work. He is currently a professor of medicine, pediatrics and clinical and translational science and the Leo H. Criep Endowed Chair in Patient Care in Pitt’s School of Medicine. He is also an assistant vice chancellor for research on health and society in the School of Health Sciences.
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher praised Primack’s appointment in a press release Monday, stating that his diverse academic and professional experiences and dedication made him the right pick for the job.
“As dean, Brian’s multidisciplinary dexterity — coupled with his commitment to collaborating and leading — will ensure that our Honors College continues to serve as a defining force in our University’s mission to leverage new knowledge for society’s gain,” Gallagher said.