Local community member to lead University Honors College

Local community member to lead University Honors College

Brian Primack, next dean of University Honors College
(Photo courtesy of University of Pittsburgh)
Brian Primack, next dean of University Honors College (Photo courtesy of University of Pittsburgh)

Brian Primack was recently named the Bernice L. and Morton S. Lerner Chair and dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s University Honors College. Attaining the deanship, which officially began July 1, represents a “dream come true,” said the bearer of an undergraduate degree from Yale University, a Master of Education degree in human development, psychology and education from Harvard University, a Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University and a Master of Science and a Ph.D. degree in clinical and translational science from the University of Pittsburgh.

Despite a seemingly eclectic background in medicine, education and research, the professional move is not as surprising as it may seem, as the Honors College’s standards mirror his own, explained Primack, a member of the local Jewish community.

According to the University of Pittsburgh, “there are three core values that shape all of our programs, advising and resources.”

Specifically, there is a desire to achieve academic attainment, intellectual curiosity and to develop social consciousness among students.

“I have always been trying to do each of those three value pillars,” Primack said.

Whether it was during his time as an instructor at the American International School of Niamey in Niger or later as a clinical provider in Western Pennsylvania, Primack has sought to embody these

Diverse undertakings, like the aforementioned, as well as prior multidisciplinary studies, will be of benefit in guiding students along their journey, explained Primack, who, as an undergraduate at Yale, studied English literature and mathematics while minoring in music.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to apply that, but I was able to explore and have positive mentors,” he said.

Reflecting upon such experiences will aid Primack in his task, noted Pitt chancellor Patrick Gallagher in a prepared statement: “As dean, Brian’s multidisciplinary dexterity — coupled with his commitment to collaborating and leading — will ensure that our Honors College continues to serve as a defining force in our university’s mission to leverage new knowledge for society’s gain.”

Primack’s “broad and inclusive vision is well matched to our aspirations for the University Honors College and the university,” echoed Pitt provost and senior vice chancellor Patricia E. Beeson in a prepared statement.

In bolstering the college, which was officially founded nearly 30 years ago under the leadership of Alec Stewart, Primack will look largely to those most invested in its success.

There is a “truly remarkable staff,” an “innovative” and “motivated” faculty and an “engaged” alumni, who will serve as tools in moving forward, said Primack.

Yet, there is also a need to cast a broader net in finding ways to promote student growth, he explained.

Whether it is joining local organizations in social service projects, working with members of the local Jewish community or creating newfound partnerships, those outside of the scholastic clique will be of utmost importance, he said.

“I would be excited to work with these stakeholders and the general community to find win-win opportunities to engage these students.”

The promise of cultivating the next generation of thinkers and leaders is intriguing to Primack. The students are not only “academically gifted, but intellectually curious and interested in community service,” he said. “The Honors College represents some really amazing students. That’s why I pursued this.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.

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