An Extraordinary Time: A Recap of John Tone’s Year as Interim Dean of Ivan Allen College

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By Michael Pearson

For many students and faculty, the 2019-2020 academic year at the Georgia Institute of Technology may go down as one of the most memorable of their lives. That is doubly true for John Tone, the College’s outgoing interim dean.

Tone, a professor in the School of History and Sociology, stepped up to helm the College during the search for a permanent replacement for Jacqueline J. Royster, who stepped down in August 2019 after two terms.

Tone will be succeeded by Kaye Husbands Fealing, chair of the School of Public Policy. Her term begins June 1.

In addition to important efforts to maintain the College’s momentum, Tone helped lead through the sudden transition to online learning in the last two months of the academic year as a result of COVID-19.

“I’d like to offer my sincerest thanks to John Tone for his service as interim dean during this transition, especially as we faced extraordinary circumstances caused by the global health crisis,” said Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs and K. Harrison Brown Family Chair. “To say his interim term has been unusual is an understatement, but we are very fortunate. John is a strong, empathetic leader and always has the success and well-being of the students, faculty, and staff in the forefront of his mind.”

Colleagues Praise Tone’s ‘Thoughtful Approach’

Associate Deans Janet Murray and Carol Colatrella thanked Tone for his advocacy for the Ivan Allen College, his commitment to further developing the College community, and for his steady leadership.

“We are all deeply grateful to John for stepping up and taking the leadership this year, and especially for his calming and compassionate response to the changes necessitated by COVID-19,” said Murray, associate dean for research and Dean’s Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication.

Colatrella, associate dean for graduate studies and faculty development and also an LMC professor, called Tone “a wonderful interim dean because of his extensive experience with academic affairs, his collegial relationships with other faculty and administrators, and his appreciation for the concerns of Georgia Tech students.”

“I appreciate his thoughtful approach in confronting challenges and his good sense of humor, and I particularly admire how he has continued to develop the Ivan Allen community of students, staff, faculty, post docs, alumni, and parents,” Colatrella said.

Highlights of an Extraordinary Year

Tone said the highlight of his year in the office was the opportunity to work with faculty and staff across the College, and with the Institute leadership team.

“I want to express my gratitude to the College’s excellent staff, the leadership in the schools, all of the associate deans. Everyone did an extraordinary job,” he said.

“One of the most enjoyable aspects of the job was working with the other deans and the provost and president. They are extraordinary people: smart, funny, a pleasure to be around,” Tone said.

He credited the College community for its flexibility and creativity in managing the sudden shift to online learning in March.

“I don’t take any credit for that,” he said. “Everyone stepped up to the plate. They showed flexibility, creativity, and resilience, and I’m really proud of what they did.”

Tone said he is also was proud of his role in restructuring the College Advisory Board to include a “younger, more diverse” mix of members who will infuse energy into their work, including helping rewrite its bylaws. He also helped Colatrella revive the College's Faculty Advisory Board.

Forging Ties with Georgia’s Film Industry

While he will turn stewardship of those initiatives over to Husbands Fealing on June 1, Tone said he will remain an active participant in his effort to forge ties with the Georgia Film Academy.

“That was my baby,” he said. “We’ve just taken the first steps, but I’m excited about the opportunities that relationship offers for all Georgia Tech students.”

The initiative, which Tone has spearheaded on campus and beyond, would provide students from across campus the opportunity to take classes and have internships in production, lighting design, editing, screenwriting and other areas of the industry. While the effort remains “back of the napkin,” Tone said he is excited by the prospects of expanding offerings in the arts and entertainment at Georgia Tech.

“That’s not just coming from me. There are other people who are eager to see that take place, too,” Tone said.

‘The Foundations of the College Are Strong’

Tone said that despite current economic uncertainties, he believes the Ivan Allen College is poised for a bright future.

“The foundations of the College are strong. Our mission aligns very closely with the new mission statement of the university, and that bodes well in the long run for the health of the College.”

He also said the College is in excellent hands with Husbands Fealing.

“Kaye is extraordinarily qualified for this job,” Tone said. “She’s going to hit it out of the park.”

For her part, Husbands Fealing said Tone has done a tremendous job of carefully listening to faculty, staff, and students, and as an ambassador of the liberal arts to the Georgia Tech campus.

“He has maintained the momentum of the past two decades and really put Ivan Allen College in a great position to be heard and to be elevated,” she said.

Back to Research

Tone joined Georgia Tech in 1990. Prior to taking over as interim dean, he had served as an associate dean since 2008. He also served as interim chair of the School of Economics in 2017-2018 and has been part of numerous boards, committees, and tasks forces around campus. He is an advisory board member for Serve-Learn-Sustain, among other roles.

The author of several books, Tone will now return to his full-time post in HSOC. He plans to resume teaching and researching the history of yellow fever, including his work on a biography of Carol Finlay — the Cuban physician who was the first to determine that the disease was transmitted by mosquitoes.

But he will always fondly remember his time leading the Ivan Allen College through extraordinary times.

“I’ve enjoyed the heck out of the job,” he said.


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  • Created By:mpearson34
  • Created:05/20/2020
  • Modified By:Rebecca Keane
  • Modified:05/28/2020


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