Vassar Today

Vassar Appoints New Dean of the Faculty

By Amy Polacko

Jonathan Chenette, former associate dean of the college and Blanche Johnson Professor of Music at Grinnell College, stepped into his role as Vassar’s dean of the faculty and professor of music in July. Chenette succeeds Ronald A. Sharp, who, having served as dean of the faculty since 2003, is returning to his teaching and scholarship as a professor of English at Vassar.

“We are extremely gratified with the selection of Jon Chenette, a gifted composer and highly respected teacher and administrator,” said President Hill. “His diverse experiences over a 25-year career at Grinnell will serve him and Vassar well.”

Chenette received his Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Chicago, following an M.M. in music composition from Butler University and a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Chicago. Chenette has composed vocal and instrumental works in diverse genres, often treating the relationship between people and the land as a central theme. His major choral-orchestral work, Broken Ground, written in collaboration with six Iowa poets, premiered with the Des Moines Symphony in a concert broadcast statewide over public television. His music has had international recognition, including performances at the ISCM World Music Days in Amsterdam, the World Harp Congress in Vienna, and the Bishop Auckland Early Music Festival in the U.K. His teaching has included courses in music theory, composition, electronic music, counterpoint, orchestration, technology and the arts, and Celtic music.

Chenette joined the Grinnell College faculty in 1983. After serving as department chair for eight years, he became chair of the humanities division in 2003 and associate dean of the college in 2004. Chenette’s career in higher education has been wide ranging: he has given presentations on place-based education and teaching with technology at annual meetings of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, served as Grinnell’s representative for a Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges “Teaching with Technology” conference, and acted as Grinnell’s liaison to the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. He was also chair for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest task force for revising the Chicago Arts Program, and is on the Fulbright Senior Specialists Peer Review Committee for Music.

“Vassar intrigued me from the moment I saw the position description,” Chenette says, because of the school’s “long tradition of leadership and innovation in higher education. I admire the college’s commitment to making its extraordinary education accessible to all who qualify for admission, as expressed through need-blind admissions policies and generous financial aid.” He says he also admires the “‘go to the source’ ethos” of the Vassar faculty, which “continues to thrive at the college today.”

And “after one week on the job,” Chenette adds, “I love it here!”