Posted October 22, 2009 Atlanta, GA
Sarah Mallory, Student Communications
Communications & Marketing
October 23 marks Dean Dull day on Georgia Tech's campus. James Edward Dull joined the Tech community in 1957 as assistant dean of students. Dull became the associate dean of students three years later, and in 1964, he was promoted to the dean of students. He remained at Tech until 1991, when he retired as vice president/dean of students emeritus. Dean Dull day was established by the Student Government Association in celebration of the many contributions Dull made to the Georgia Tech community.
In his time at Tech, Dull oversaw virtually every aspect of student life including not only disciplinary processes but also most activities - housing, fraternity affairs and student media to name a few - outside of the curriculum. Over the course of his tenure, he served nine seated or acting presidents. Enrollment grew from 5,200 to 13,000. Female enrollment grew from 11 to 3,050. He is credited with finding and purchasing the 1930 Model A Ford coupe, the vehicle that leads the football team onto the field before each home game as well as developing the Buzz costume. He lived on campus for 31 years, teaching a ballroom dancing options class for 30 of those years.
Dull was also involved with numerous student organizations. He was a member of ANAK, Omicron Delta Kappa, Pi Kappa Phi and Friends of DramaTech. He was also the adviser to the Student Government Association and attended their weekly meetings for 33 years.
Students who passed through Georgia Tech often cited his ability to connect with everyone, guided by his extraordinary powers of perception. Rich Steele, who earned his bachelor's degree from Tech in 1985 and is now director of its Student Center, recounted his experience.
"He had an uncanny way of sizing up a person," Steele recalled. "One day he asked if I grew up on a farm — which I did. Astounded as to how he came to ask me that question, he stated that I walked with a certain gait and with my feet spread apart — as someone would walk through a cow pasture.
"He used that skill to know how to best encourage the brightest student leaders and to know how to best deal with the student in need of discipline. That skill served him well."
As a tireless advocate of students, Dull understood that each individual required different kinds of support in order to succeed. Annie Anton, who earned each of her three degrees at Georgia Tech, was one student Dull helped.
"In 1986 I approached Dean Dull because I was unable to complete my calculus tests within the allotted time. Dean Dull offered me extra time on tests if I could bring in a note from my physician, explaining that I have ADHD and dyslexia. He realized that I was capable of doing the work, but that I simply needed extra time.
"Were it not for Dean Dull, I would have failed out of Georgia Tech simply because I could never finish exams without extra time," said Anton, who is now a professor of computer science at North Carolina State University. "It's a tremendous tribute that such a highly ranked school had someone like Dean Dull, who knew how to help struggling students and who was committed to helping us succeed beyond what we ever imagined possible for ourselves!"
He also helped produce well-rounded graduates. For 30 years he led an extracurricular enrichment program that introduced students to ballroom dancing. He also organized a national championship-winning Georgia Tech College Bowl Team and trained the Wreckette Dancing and Drill Team. When he retired in 1991, approximately 80 percent of the living alumni had been students during his career. His passion for and legacy of support for the arts was honored in 1992, when the black box theater at the back of the Ferst Center for the Arts was named for him.
Dull died on March 22, 2009. He was 80.
The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.