February 11, 2021
Dear Colleagues and Students,
I am writing with the important news that Kirk E. Pillow has decided to step down as provost at the end of this academic year. In July, Kirk will begin a much deserved leave for the 2021-22 academic year, after which he will join the faculty of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a tenured Professor.
As president, I will miss working closely with Kirk Pillow in his role as provost, for his wise counsel, his deep appreciation for and understanding of our faculty, students and staff, and his grace under pressure. Kirk has been a powerful partner, one with clear vision exemplified by his leadership of the strategic plan, his full consideration of issues, and his constant even hand. He has demonstrated patience and care. He has an unparalleled understanding of action and consequence both in times that are predictable as well as during moments of extreme stress and transformation. As Pratt Institute’s chief academic officer, Kirk has guided the overall academic mission of the Institute, including program development, accreditation and assessment, and has built a strong academic foundation. Under his watch, world-class deans, a vice and associate provost, and other great leaders have joined us, and he has been pivotal in helping us attract and retain talented faculty members.
Kirk joined Pratt as provost in July 2015, and has advanced the mission and goals of the Institute on many fronts. He led the completion of the BFA curricular change in Art and Design, along with the related revisions to Foundation and the General Education curriculum. He fostered interdisciplinary curricular innovation, through the Pratt Integrative Courses, expansion of minors, and other initiatives. He embraced shared governance and fostered rich collaboration with the Academic Senate, including thorough revision of the by-laws in 2016, and adoption of a fully revised Faculty Handbook in 2019. He strengthened constructive collaboration between academic leaders and the faculty Union. Under his leadership and advocacy, major renovations were completed to the Juliana Curran Terian Design Center and the Pratt Manhattan Center. He created the Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships, appointing its inaugural associate provost, and also established Pratt's dynamic Center for Teaching and Learning. Kirk would be the first to note that all of these accomplishments required the dedicated work of strong and resilient leadership at many levels from the faculty and administration he has been instrumental in building.
Kirk was serving as the interim president when I arrived at Pratt and I will always be grateful for his role in making my transition smooth, enabling me to have a thoughtful and ambitious launch. While serving as interim, he helped develop Pratt's diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan, which led to the appointment of Pratt's inaugural vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. Following my arrival, Kirk co-led the development of Pratt's Strategic Plan with Vice President for Finance and Administration Cathleen Kenny, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2019. And not least, he helped guide Pratt through our very challenging past year of the pandemic and upheaval, opening promising futures for academic continuity, excellence and innovation.
Prior to joining Pratt, Kirk was the interim president of The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he also served as provost. He served as chief academic officer, and later interim president, of the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., and held faculty and administrative positions at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. A noted scholar in the field of philosophy, Kirk earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University, where he specialized in aesthetic theory. His Sublime Understanding: Aesthetic Reflection in Kant and Hegel (MIT Press, 2000) offers a theory of how people respond to works of art and find meaning in them.
I am happy to announce at this time that effective July 1, our current Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Donna Heilend will serve as Pratt's interim provost for the next academic year while we conduct an international search for our next provost, set to launch in Fall 2021. Donna’s appointment as vice provost was fundamental to the academic team Kirk built and her contributions to Pratt’s academic mission and planning have been substantial.
We look forward to working closely with Kirk and Donna through the completion of this academic year to plan a smooth transition for the future. Please join me at this time in expressing our deepest gratitude to Kirk and in wishing him the very best in the next part of his academic career.