The retirement of Academic Dean Joe Mark signifies the end of an era at Castleton State College, but it marks a beginning for Tony Peffer.
While Peffer is already an important part of the CSC community – acting as the dean of Undergraduate Studies – he hopes the transition to academic dean will enable him to better help to students and faculty.
Peffer said he is honored to replace Mark.
“It’s really quite humbling that the president has confidence in me, that I can do that job. It’s such an exciting time to be in that position because we’ve reached a really unusual point in a college’s history,” Peffer said. “We’ve succeeded. Our vision, the vision of President Wolk -we’re there. But, you can never just stay ‘there.’ So it’s a really thrilling time to think about what’s the next vision, what do we need to be?”
Peffer said he’s reluctant to go into too much detail about his goals before making sure they match those of the administration.
“Any school,” Peffer continues, “and I’ve been at a lot of places, the leadership always has a vision for the future and what’s different is that often, at places I’ve been, there’s this vision, and not much happens with it and then somebody else comes and there’s a new vision and here, we’ve actually done it. And that makes it, well, cool.”
Peffer grew up in Northeast Kentucky, and though he only maintains a portion of his vaguely noticeable drawl, he comes across as eloquent, self-assured, and open-minded. Although he said he was less than achievement oriented as an undergraduate, he attributes much of his success to a history professor at Morehead State University.
“I really enjoyed school, but I didn’t study all that hard. I was probably more interested in my next date, more than my next assignment,” he jokes. “But then I got married as a senior, so I wasn’t thinking so much about that anymore. That’s when I started to really apply myself.”
And it was that professor, “professor Jackson,” who convinced him to seek a Ph.D.
“The way he said it, I really felt like I had this duty to get my Ph.D.
And that’s what really launched me into my graduate school work,” he said.
As his life and career progressed, he discovered a Ph.D. program would have to wait since his grades-though not terrible-wouldn’t do for enrollment. So instead, he enrolled in two different programs for two different master’s degrees. One was at the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary for a Masters Divinity degree and the other was at San Francisco Graduate School for a Masters in History.
For his doctorate in history, he ended up at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. He said, he reached the point where he was both utilizing his Masters Divinity degree pastoring at different churches while doing his doctorate work and he had to come to the decision.
“I came to, you know, a fork in the road…And I decided to go with college. And so I took a job first as an adjunct in Ohio, then took another job in Southeast Kentucky at a community college, which I loved the place, I love the people, but I got bored.”
He was at that time teaching five survey courses a semester, but needed a change. He moved on to Sheboygan, Wis. to work at Lakeland College. Even there after 13 years, gaining tenure, and being a head faculty member, he again thought it was time for a transition.
Peffer then went on to endeavors in Asian American Studies at University of Chicago. There, he said, he had the opportunity to shape the future of scholarship,
“These were people who were going to be Ph.D.’s in Asian American Studies, so I loved mentoring,” says Peffer.
When he left the University of Chicago, he applied for two positions – one working with graduate students and one in administration.
Ultimately, the decision to apply to the two positions brought him to Castleton in 2007. Originally he came on as associate academic dean, now he holds the position of dean of Undergraduate Studies, and, “Come July,’ he laughs,” I’ll be the Academic Dean. It’s just a wonderful place.”
“I’m so grateful to be here. One of my goals is to be much more involved in what students are doing, so I know you besides whatever my position now entails or what it will entail,” he said.
Peffer lives in West Rutland with his wife of 35 years, Myra. He has one daughter, Charity, and a grandson, Kian.
Mark said he feels comfortable knowing Peffer will be filling the role he has filled for decades.
“I think it’s been helpful to have someone who already knows the institution, who already has relationships on campus,” he said.
Mark said he has tried to help make the transition smooth, show him the methods he’s used, and to involve Peffer in decision making and planning meetings and groups to help, “Tony take over.”