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Associate Dean of Student Life, Myrt Westphal, to Retire At End of Year

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As seniors on campus go through the bittersweet experience of completing their last year at Swarthmore, there’s another member of Swarthmore’s community who is also getting ready to leave. On October 10, Dean of Students Liz Braun announced in an email that Myrt Westphal, Associate Dean of Student Life, will retire in July 2013 after 25 years of working at the college.On being asked what brought about her decision to retire now, Dean Westphal, who joined the college in 1987, said, “It was a combination of things. I spent the summer traveling and spent time with my grandsons who are six and eight. It made me realize that if I want to know them better I need to spend more time with them. I also realized that the very first number on my car’s odometer has changed to a seven, which means it’s probably time to retire.”Dean Westphal, who sold her house in Swarthmore two years ago in anticipation of her retirement, now plans to move to Missoula, Montana, to be closer to her family, especially her grandsons. While she expressed excitement about the move, describing a leisurely fall break as a preview of life to come, she added, “I love this job and I’m aware that this may be the end of my career in higher education. It took a while to be okay with this decision since an important part of my life is coming to an end.”

In her email to the student body, Dean Braun stated that Dean Westphal “is always the first person to step forward to pitch in and help out wherever she is needed. For these and so many reasons Dean Westphal will be deeply missed, but I am confident that her legacy of leadership will live on here at Swarthmore.”

In her time here, Dean Westphal has collected an array of experiences and relationships. She recalled her role in a Vertigo-go show about mice as a particularly memorable one and also recounted an embarrassing incident from her time as Housing Dean. She said, “There was one year that the housing department decided to create more blocks for the lottery but we forgot to specify that some were only for juniors and seniors. As a result, rising sophomores ended up with all the singles. Eventually, we had to re-do the lottery.”

Speaking of her time at Swarthmore, she said, “I love the Swarthmore way. We’re a place that lives our values, so it was easy to work here. I never had to go against my values or the college’s during my time here. I love the students; it’s a population that keeps growing and getting better.”

As Associate Dean of Student Life, Dean Westphal is close to the resident assistants on campus. Seth Udelson ’13, an RA in Wharton, spoke of her retirement: “Myrt has worked closely with the RAs, providing invaluable advice and perspective. I think I speak for the entire group when I say that Myrt is one of the most caring people at Swarthmore and we are incredibly sad to see her go. Her steady compassion and understanding will not easily be replaced.”

On a closing note, Dean Westphal stated, “Being a trusted advisor to the Dean’s office was a very fulfilling job; it helped me give back and help others with their careers just the way I was mentored when I first joined. I’m now looking forward to a good, new life ahead of me.”

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