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Feb 18, 2009 4:17 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

New dean of Stony Brook Southampton

Feb 18, 2009 4:17 PM

Stony Brook Southampton will add a well-known and internationally respected conservationist to its administration when Mary C. Pearl, Ph.D., begins her duties as the college’s first dean and administrative vice president on Monday, March 9.

Stony Brook University President Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, who also serves as president of Stony Brook Southampton, said in a prepared statement that she thinks Dr. Pearl will be a perfect fit for the Shinnecock Hills campus.

“After an intensive international search, I am thrilled to have Dr. Pearl leading our efforts at Stony Brook Southampton,” Dr. Kenny said. “Dr. Pearl’s environmental credentials are impeccable; she has shown exceptional leadership in helping shape and define sustainability efforts nationally and globally. She has the drive and ability to do the same for Stony Brook Southampton.”

In her new position, Dr. Pearl will be charged with designing curriculum requirements for environmental majors at the campus, recruiting new faculty members and facilitating overall growth at the college. She is replacing Dr. Martin Schoonen, who served as interim dean of Stony Brook University’s satellite campus for its first two years of operation. He is expected to step down in the next few weeks.

In a phone interview last week, Dr. Pearl, who is from New York City, said she was excited to have the opportunity to work with others in shaping the future of the young campus, which was purchased by the state from Long Island University in 2006.

“The role of the dean is to be a visionary—to create a sense of excitement,” Dr. Pearl said. “But the beauty of an institution is that no one person declares a direction.”

Dr. Pearl will soon leave her position at the Wildlife Trust, an international association of scientists dedicated to preserving biodiversity and studying the links between humans, wildlife and habitat health. She served as president of the organization for the past 15 years.

Upon her arrival on the East End, Dr. Pearl explained that she would like to gain a deeper understanding of the college’s faculty and students before making any major decisions. “I’ll be doing a lot of listening,” she said. “I want to get to know the students.”

Dr. Pearl boasts a long list of credentials, including helping found the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University, where she serves as an adjunct research scientist. Additionally, she served as member of the Task Force on Environmental Sustainability of the United Nations Millennium Project—a global initiative that combats the effects of poverty, hunger and disease.

She received her undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Yale University and has served as the editor of numerous environmental and conservation journals.

Dr. Pearl said that her experience qualifies her for the new position, which has both an academic and administrative role. “I have experiences from the trenches rather than a theoretical view,” she said.

She noted that one of her goals at Stony Brook Southampton will be helping create new environmentally focused majors that will prepare graduates for work in environmental education and advocacy. “Citizens need to be educated about sustainability,” she said.

Involving the local community in Stony Brook Southampton’s goals will be another one of Dr. Pearl’s missions upon assuming her post early next month. “I want to include local organizations and other institutions,” she said. “It’s a rich community with a lot to offer.”

In addition to helping define the role of a four-year college, Dr. Pearl says that the location of the Stony Brook Southampton campus also influenced her decision to accept the post. She described the East End as a “magnificent and beautiful part of the world.”

Although she and her husband, Dr. Don J. Melnick, a conservation biology professor at Columbia University, and their two adult children, Meredith and Seth, have not decided where their permanent home will be, Dr. Pearl said she would like to live in either Westhampton Beach or Southampton Village. “I’d love to be within bicycling distance” of the campus, she said.

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