School of Public Health interim dean moves to top

Angela Gray

After 14 months of searching and 60 candidate interviews, John Finnegan was named the new dean of the School of Public Health.

The appointment, made by Frank Cerra, senior vice president for Health Sciences, will be made official by the Board of Regents in November.

Finnegan, who has worked at the University for 25 years, became interim dean when the national search began.

“While I was interim dean for the University School of Public Health, I decided to put my name into the mix of candidates,” Finnegan said.

Kathleen Thiede Call, assistant professor in health services, policy and administration, said Finnegan was her first choice for dean.

“John holds the University’s best interest close to his heart,” Thiede Call said.

Finnegan said the search for a new dean was a lengthy process.

“It was like giving birth to an elephant, but I am glad the process is finished,” he said.

The School of Public Health is a national leader in the field, Finnegan said.

“This is a heck of a privilege,” he said.

In 1998, Finnegan became associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Public Health.

He serves on National Institutes of Health panels and is a frequent national and local speaker on public health issues.

Finnegan said his responsibilities as dean will include financial and investment planning as well as serving as an officer on the Twin Cities Dean Council to discuss policies and funding, research and learning, and public health outreach programs.

“I want to move along the values affecting the future of public health,” he said.

Jean Abraham, professor of health services research, policy and administration, said Finnegan works well with faculty members and is open-minded to a diverse range of viewpoints.

“John has a great vision for the School of Public Health,” she said.

Finnegan said his goals are to improve the prestige of the School of Public Health, increase endowment and scholarship opportunities for students, and ultimately turn discoveries in health to application and then to policy.

“And maybe, at the end of the day, if I have time, possibly fit in sleep,” he said.

Mary Story, associate dean of academic and student affairs in the School of Public Health, said she has worked with Finnegan for four years.

“I am delighted John Finnegan was named dean,” she said. “Finnegan is a very forward thinker, dedicated to the University.”

Finnegan’s visions for the University include online learning and information technologies, increasing diversity in the work force and reaching out to the community, she said.

Finnegan’s visions reflect what the nation and public health research “really” need, Story said.

“He’s a strong leader, he’s a nice guy, he’s a Minnesotan and very deeply committed,” she said. “The school is in good hands.”