Byron P. McCrae, an accomplished leader in college student affairs on both coasts, has been named as Davidson College’s new vice president for student life and dean of students.
He replaces Tom Shandley, who is retiring at the end of June after 24 years in that role.
McCrae, a Fulbright Scholar who grew up in Maryland, currently serves in the same role at Hampshire College, in Amherst, Mass. He was previously Vice President and Dean of Student Life at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania and Associate Vice President for student affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute.
“I was drawn to Davidson’s clarity of purpose,” McCrae said.
The college’s mission of preparing students for a life of leadership and service fuels the interests that led him into higher education from the beginning, he said: preparing and influencing the next generation of leaders.
“It’s hard not to believe that you’re mentoring a student who is going to cure cancer or develop the next film that will change how we see the human experience,” McCrae said. “That energy and engagement, the spirit of inquiry and expression. It’s the ability to feel like you’ve been thrown into the deep end of a very powerful conversation that some day will lead to solving a problem bigger than we can imagine.”
Davidson College President Carol Quillen said McCrae was named following a national search led by a committee that included faculty, staff, students and a trustee.
“Byron arrives at Davidson with a tremendous record in the many and challenging fields of responsibility within student life,” Quillen said. “He brings the energy, experience and creativity we need as we prepare truly talented and courageous young people from a broad range of backgrounds to take on tomorrow’s challenges.”
One of McCrae’s priorities is student resilience, finding ways to support and create balanced lives for students who have big ambitions and dreams.
“Students today are integrative thinkers in ways we weren’t,” he said. “They use tools we never imagined. I want to work hard to support student innovation, make sure that they know they have caring mentors, that they feel part of a community, that they know there’s someone who has a vested interest in them.”
At Hampshire, McCrae is involved in campus-wide initiatives such as accreditation and strategic planning and oversees a range of programs and services, including: campus leadership and activities; campus police; career resources; health and counseling; international student services; multicultural affairs; the queer community alliance center and spiritual life and student conduct.
McCrae’s early career in student life took him to a variety of roles with increasing responsibility at institutions that included the University of Oregon and New York University. In October 2016, he traveled to Germany as a recipient of the Fulbright International Education Administrators award.
McCrae, 45, received a doctorate in educational leadership, administration, and policy from Fordham University, as well as a master's in higher education from Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree in communications arts from Salisbury University. He also is a tennis fan, documentary and independent film buff and a self-described “comic book nerd” who counts X-Men as his favorite.