David J. Helfand will now be acting as the full-time president of Quest University, the school stated in a press release on Monday (July 18).
Helfand became a founding tutor at Quest when he took a leave from his faculty position at Columbia University during the fall of 2007. For the past three years, he has led the institution on an interim basis, much of the time while commuting to New York.
"I have been lecturing at Columbia for a third of a century," said Helfand. "But I feel I only began truly teaching when I came to Quest."
Helfand said he enjoys the school's unique environment.
"The students, the faculty, the staff, the architecture, and the institution's organization are all focused on one goal," he said. "To provide a life-changing education that will produce graduates who are international in outlook, skilled in communication, imbued with quantitative reasoning abilities, inherently trans-disciplinary in their approach to problems, technologically literate, instinctively collaborative, and engaged in their local and global communities."
According to Quest media rep Christina Moore, Helfand is now on a long term leave of absence from Columbia, with zero responsibilities for the foreseeable future.
Helfand was first engaged by the founders of Quest in 2005 when they learned of his successful efforts to add science to Columbia's core curriculum. His initial commitment to the project was a one-day meeting to discuss the integration of the sciences, the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts in a balanced undergraduate education. He gradually became more deeply engaged in the school, assisting in the hiring of Quest's inaugural faculty and in developing the school's unique curriculum.
"We are delighted that David has agreed to be Quest's President," said Ian Worland, Quest's Board Chair. "He is totally committed to the Quest vision, and his combination of administrative and academic leadership skills will serve us well in the coming years."
Helfand received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College in 1973. He continued his education in Amherst at the University of Massachusetts with his advisor, Joseph Taylor, the 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physics; he received the PhD in 1977 and moved directly to Columbia University in New York, first as a postdoctoral research fellow and, for the last 33 years, as a faculty member in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy. At Columbia, he served as Chair of the Department of Astronomy as well as co-Director of the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory for the majority of the years between 1985 and June 2011.
This year, Helfand was elected President of the American Astronomical Society, the professional organization of astronomers, astrophysicists and planetary scientists in North America, a post he will hold at the same time as his appointment at Quest.
For more information on the school, visit www.questu.ca.