From protests to politics, Ambassador Solomont returns to Tufts
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 08:09
The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service this summer announced that Alan Solomont (A ’70), ambassador to Spain and Andorra, will serve as the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar dean starting in January. Solomont will replace interim dean Nancy Wilson, who has been serving as dean ad interim since 2011 when Robert Hollister, co-founder and first dean of the college, stepped down.
While students and faculty were away for the summer, Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris announced Solomont’s appointment.
“I look forward to working with Ambassador Solomont and the Tufts community to build on the substantial progress that Tisch College has made in recent years,” Harris said in an email to the Tufts community.
Wilson expressed optimism about the selection of Solomont as the college’s new dean.
“I think [10 years] is a great time for someone fresh to come in and say ‘Okay, we’ve been trying all these things, where do we need to do more and where can we do less,’” she said. “I’m sure [Solomont] will bring a different lens and a different set of questions to the role.”
Founded in 2000, Tisch College aims to help students develop into active citizens through collaboration with Tufts schools, departments and student groups. Wilson began her involvement with the college in 2004 as associate dean.
“Because the job of Tisch College is to provide civic learning experiences for students across the whole university, a really important role of the dean is working with other deans to figure out, ‘How do we do this in our school?’” Wilson said.
Although no specific classes are offered from Tisch College, it works as an umbrella organization to support all aspects of Tufts’ curricula, with the dean highlighting and encouraging active citizenship across the university.
Solomont, born in Boston and a long-time social and political activist, is no stranger to Tufts. After graduating in 1970 with a B.A. in political science and urban studies, he went on to work as a community organizer in Lowell, Mass. After discovering an interest in health care, Solomont earned a B.S. in nursing from the University of Lowell in 1977 and spent a significant amount of his career working in healthcare-related areas.
Solomont brings political experience to Tufts as well. After his first experience working as a page at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Solomont went on to serve on the campaigns of John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis and worked as the Democratic Party’s national finance chair from 1997 to 1998.
According to a June 2013 Tufts Now article, Solomont said that his undergraduate experience at Tufts helped develop his belief in the power of political activism. While at Tufts, Solomont demonstrated against the war in Vietnam and tackled the issue of the lack of minority hiring during the construction of Lewis Hall in 1969.
“I remember organizing around that issue,” Solomont told the Daily in a previous interview. “Trying to raise people’s consciousness about it [and communicate] that we had a responsibility as a university to be good citizens and to confront this issue of institutional racism.”
After knocking on doors and gaining support, Solomont and other students decided to affect change more publicly.
“We paid a visit to Ballou Hall and sat in at the president’s office,” he said.
When the movement gained the attention of the Record American, the Boston Herald’s predecessor, Solomont was pictured in the press.
“There was a picture on the front page of the Record American ... of a bunch of students in the president’s office,” he said. “There are a lot of African-American students, and then, you know, there’s this white kid, in a cap, sitting on the president’s desk, reading a newspaper.”
The event gained support throughout the Boston area, Washington, D.C. and New York, according to the Tufts Civil Rights Protests, which archives the history of on-campus student activism. The university soon adopted new hiring policies as a result of the demonstration.
Since graduating from Tufts, Solomont has maintained his ties with the university, according to Wilson.
“Alan goes back a long way with Tufts and with Tisch College,” Wilson said. “In fact, somewhere in the building we have the initial founding document for Tisch College that was signed by a couple of the Tufts trustees and the initial funders and the dean, and Alan’s signature is on that document because he was there in minute one.”