College Community Welcomes Byron McCrae as Dean of Students

Aidan Peterson-

In May of 2017, Davidson College announced Byron P. McCrae as the new Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students. He replaced Tom Shandley, who retired after serving in the position for twenty-four years. McCrae comes to Davidson with extensive experience in student life within the higher education system.

“I’ve known about Davidson for a while,” McCrae said. When asked about his initial reaction to gaining the opportunity to work here, McCrae responded, “I tell people that I have won the job lottery.”

A self-identified southerner, McCrae was born in Tennessee but grew up in Maryland. From a young age, McCrae developed an appreciation for the literature of comic books. He has taught classes focused on the genre at a previous institution, even taking students to comic book stores on field trips. “I am kind of a comic book nerd, if you will,” shared McCrae.

With degrees from Salisbury University, Syracuse University, and Fordham University, McCrae’s education and subsequent career have taken him across the country. He held the position of Vice President of Student Affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute in California, before returning to the east coast to become the Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students at Washington and Jefferson in Pennsylvania, and later Hampshire College in Massachusetts. While McCrae enjoyed the ability to travel the country doing what he loves, he “wanted to be back in the south.”

McCrae has found his niche with smaller liberal arts colleges. Both Hampshire and Washington and Jefferson have comparable student body sizes to Davidson. McCrae’s participation in smaller college settings helped him develop strong relationships not only with students at his previous institutions, but also with the faculty and communities surrounding them.

“He puts students first,” remarked President Carol Quillen, who took part in the search for a new Dean of Students. “He wants students to drive their own education and help them be participants in decision-making.” Quillen feels confident that McCrae will excel at Davidson.

While former Dean of Students Tom Shandley was transitioning into retirement, he and McCrae developed a close relationship. “He and I are good friends,” McCrae said, with a smile.

At a conference in San Antonio, Texas, Shandley and McCrae met for the first time, though both had known of each other prior to the event. Shandley was presenting on Lula Bell’s and the importance of providing students with the vital resources for success. As someone who is very passionate about food security, McCrae was moved by Shandley’s words, thus a friendship developed.

Dean McCrae’s passion for food does not stop at security. A huge supporter of the farm-to-table movement, McCrae has worked on how to make communities more sustainable with the food they consume. “Farmer’s markets have been important to me personally,” remarked McCrae.

He elaborated that at his previous institutions, he implemented a coupon initiative to encourage students to frequent the local farmer’s markets more often. Additionally, at Hampshire College, McCrae created an “Environmental Justice and Sustainability floor” on one of the residence halls. One of the floor’s activities involved students shopping at a local farmer’s market and participating in a farm-to-table brunch afterwards.

In an interview with The Davidsonian in May, former Dean Shandley reflected on the reason he stayed so long at Davidson: the students. When asked about his first impression of Davidson, McCrae made a similar comment and noted the hospitality and kindness he was already receiving from the Davidson student body. Upon arriving to campus, he frequently asked himself, “Are they really that nice here?”

“Over the summer, students really did contact me to welcome me to campus. For a student to say, ‘you sound really interesting’ or ‘we have some common interests’ was fantastic to hear,” commented McCrae.

Although McCrae is new to Davidson, the student body is buzzing about their new Dean of Students. “[McCrae] cares about the Davidson community and has thrown himself into the thick of it since day one. I have consistently seen him at Commons and athletic events, intermingling with students and getting to know the student body better as a whole,” remarked John Dale ‘20.

Students and faculty alike are excited for the opportunity to work with Dean McCrae. President Quillen commented on McCrae’s faith in the greatness of the Davidson community: “He is a big believer in accountability: holding himself and all of us accountable to live up to our own standards.”