Curt Lauderdale ‘01 with Tilly the Dog. Photo by Larissa Davis ‘20.
Excited about his new role at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Curt Lauderdale ‘01 officially left his position as Dean of Students at Lawrence University on Friday, Jan. 7. The area he will be working in at UW-Madison, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is roughly double the size of the Lawrence student body. This inevitably means that Curt will remain busy and will certainly be connecting with many students in his new home.
Several members of the Lawrence community expressed excitement for Curt — for this new position and his ability to now live closer to family members as well — but are certainly feeling nostalgic as he goes. Lawrence has been Curt’s home for decades now, and though he’s leaving, they know that he will still always be a Lawrentian.
When asked about their favorite memories of working with Curt, several Lawrence faculty and staff members simply smiled, engaging in the memory before even daring to describe it. Favorites included Curt wearing a penguin suit to celebrate Winter Carnival, small moments amidst the chaos of Student Life in which Curt could bring about a smile with a whacky NPR story, nights spent drinking on College Avenue, countless pranks and bumping into Curt and his lovable dog, Tilly, on the Newberry Trail by the river.
Surprisingly, several people also identified their favorite moments to be when a residence hall — or all of group housing — was flooding. These may not have been enjoyable moments on the surface, considering the labor involved in sorting through water-damaged belongings to salvage what they could. However, people chose these moments because they showed the commitment and care Curt had for students and for Lawrence.
According to Dean of Academic Success Monita Mohammadian Gray, Curt is the definition of student-centered. He loved working with student organizations, and he could often be seen at student performances. While some may say that part of his impressive attendance is due to his beginnings at Lawrence — initially a vocal major before choosing to study government and history —, it was clear that he showed up for more than just the music.
Curt’s support for students was evident in meetings for the plethora of committees he was a part of as well. He continuously advocated for students, regularly bringing up perspectives that students had shared with him or asking questions about the potential impact on the student body. Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat stated that Curt’s commitment to amplifying student voices had been evident ever since she first met him while serving on the hiring committee that selected Chris Card for the Vice President for Student Life position. She explained that Curt sat between two students, rather than other faculty or staff, during the interviews and listened attentively to the questions they brought forward.
Beyond this, Curt was also “unofficially the glue of most things student-related” according to Associate Dean of Students and Dean of the Sophomore Class Rose Wasielewski. This included co-chairing the Early Alerts Committee that connects faculty and staff with resources to ensure timely intervention can be provided for struggling students. It also involved meeting with students regarding housing concerns, meal plan accommodations, conduct issues, and essentially everything else imaginable.
Being the glue also included supporting other offices, such as Campus Safety. As explained by Campus Safety Officer and Building Administrator at the Warch Campus Center Kevin Goggins, Curt could always be found walking around campus with Tilly on busy nights. He would check in with the officers to see if they needed any support or had any issues, and according to Goggins, Curt always kept his word.
Goggins continued, stating that Curt is the person that you want in charge in any situation. Characterized as a role model, a steadying leader, an attentive listener and a creative questioner, Curt brought logic, curiosity and compassion into each situation he encountered. As explained by Assistant Director for Residential Education and Housing Bonny Sucherman, Curt has the ability to think several steps ahead and ask questions no one else thinks of. This was partially due to the history that Curt had with Lawrence; he is an alumnus who worked here after graduation and then pursued a graduate degree before returning. This combined his treasure trove of Lawrence knowledge with experiences outside of the Bubble to better evaluate and advise the workings of Lawrence.
These characteristics were evident in his meetings with students as well. In his role, Curt met with students during some of their best and worst moments, according to former Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell. In these situations, Curt sought to be fair and keep students centered in the conversation. Both as a student and as a full-time staff member, Assistant Director of Alumni and Constituency Engagement Kate Allison ’12 observed Curt’s ability to offer a balance of challenge and support for students.
While being challenged was not always — or even often — comfortable, it did encourage curiosity and growth. I speak from personal experience on this, as I have had the opportunity to meet with Curt Lauderdale while being beyond angry with him and this university. Whether it be regarding systemic issues or specific situations, Curt was always willing to hear out my woes. He listened— but he questioned too. This was admittedly infuriating at certain points, as he asked more questions than a philosopher could ever dream of. However, I am truly grateful for those moments of frustration now.
Curt Lauderdale taught me some of the most difficult, yet also the most important, lessons I’ve learned while at Lawrence. He reminded me why I chose Lawrence and why I continue to choose a career path in education and supporting students; he truly pushed me to learn and be my best self. And I will always be grateful for the pain in my ass he was and will likely continue to be.