Departing College House System Founders

Two of the founding members of the three-year-old College House system--Dr. John Richetti, Faculty Master of Harrison College House, and Sonia Elliott, House Dean of Du Bois College House--are stepping down at the end of the semester, according to Director David B. Brownlee.

Dr. Richetti, the A.M. Rosenthal Professor of English and department chair, will take an academic leave to complete a biography of Daniel Defoe for Blackwell Publishers and to edit the "Restoration and Eighteenth-Century" volume of the New Cambridge History of English Literature for Cambridge University Press.

Dr. Richetti served as a Faculty Fellow for two years in Van Pelt College House before moving to Harrison along with his wife, Dr. Deirdre David, in 1998. "I'm happy that I could do my part in launching the new College House system and in facing the enormous challenge for that system uniquely posed by the high rises," noted Dr. Richetti. "I think that some students have profited from their interactions with me and other faculty members I've brought to Harrison. I've made many good friends here. My successor will surely learn from my mistakes and build on my successes."

Dr. Brownlee said it would be difficult to match the progress made during Dr. Richetti's tenure. "Under John's leadership, Harrison was a high rise that became a home, earning a reputation as the big House with a big heart. He drew residents together with all manner of activities, major and minor. He didn't underestimate what had to be done, and in the face of all that I think that he was genuinely surprised by how much he accomplished. Those who know him were not."

Dr. Brownlee also praised Ms. Elliott for her contributions to Du Bois College House, one of the first College Houses created in 1972. Having lived in Du Bois as an undergraduate, she has served as an administrator in the House since 1995, and she was selected as one of the original twelve House Deans when the new system was inaugurated in 1998.

"Under Sonia's leadership, Du Bois has been an exemplary College House, and she has been an exemplary House Dean. Du Bois is a place where the intellectual vitality of the University comes home with students, and from which students go out to build bridges between the University and the community. Sonia is a gifted scholar and a wise counselor, and a generation of Du Bois students have benefited from her advice."

According to Ms. Elliott, her proudest moments occur every time she runs into her former students, or meets fellow alumni and families on graduation day. "They give testimony to the claim that they could not have made it through Penn without the W.E.B. Du Bois College House. It is with great humility that I am honored to have been a part of that." Ms. Elliott plans to spend the coming year applying to doctoral programs in education.

Interested applicants for either position should contact David Fox, Associate Director for Academic Services in the Office of College Houses and Academic Services at (215) 573-5636 or by e-mail at

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 24, February 27, 2001