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Aubry Threlkeld on New Named Deanship, Plans for Endicott’s School of Education

Aubry Threlkeld
Aubry Threlkeld, recently named the inaugural Myrt Harper Rose ’56 Dean of the School of Education, reflects on their journey to this moment and offers a glimpse into the School’s future.
By: Sarah Sweeney

Go to school for me, baby.

That’s what Aubry Threlkeld’s grandmother repeated to them as a child. Only now, “I’m in the 31st grade,” Threlkeld likes to joke. “Maybe I’ve taken it a little far.”

In May, Threlkeld will graduate with an MBA from Endicott’s Curtis L. Gerrish School of Business, but they have also recently reached another pivotal milestone: Just this January, Threlkeld was named the inaugural Myrt Harper Rose ’56 Dean of the School of Education. The named deanship was established through Spread Your Wings: The Campaign for Endicott College.

“I’m so happy to see what the school is doing,” Rose said in the fall/winter 2022 edition of Soundings. “It’s wonderful to experience the growth and the path they’re taking.”

“I was shocked and humbled to receive this prestigious honor,” said Threlkeld. “This, after all, was the largest single gift to the School of Education in our history.”

Rose, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, has been a longtime supporter of Endicott. Her story—from walking on airplanes to flying through President Obama’s airspace—is possibly the only story that might come close to rivaling Threlkeld’s.

“She’s someone who followed her passions, someone who did things that other people wouldn’t do and/or expect,” said Threlkeld. “Being named the inaugural Myrt Harper Rose ’56 Dean of Education is fitting because we both made our own ways in the world—and I want anyone who loves education to feel free enough to be that way.”

Raised in Charleston, Threlkeld was invested in social justice and LGBTQIA+ advocacy from a young age and envisioned a future career as an art historian. Attending college was always in the plan, thanks to ongoing encouragement from their grandmother.

“She never went past the sixth grade because she moved around so much,” they said.

That’s because Threlkeld’s heritage is Romani, a nomadic ethnic group originally from northern India with diasporic populations worldwide. Commonly and controversially referred to as gypsies, Romani people are still renowned musicians, storytellers, and fortune tellers.

But even Threlkeld’s grandmother couldn’t have predicted their unprecedented career path.

While studying the history of art and architecture at Middlebury College, Threlkeld built upon years of activism by working at the college’s ADA office. “That really set me on a path and gave me a purpose,” they reflected. “I always thought I’d pursue a career in the art world, but I said, ‘No, I’m going to be a teacher.’”

That journey involved everything from literacy coaching and working with children labeled with emotional and behavioral difficulties in the South Bronx to a master’s degree from Mercy College and a doctorate from Harvard, where they’d eventually spend eleven years researching, teaching, and living and working as a residential tutor on campus.

Threlkeld landed at Endicott in December 2015, working to collect data on graduate programs. They were running their own consulting company at the time and expected to spend a few months on campus, no more. But then Threlkeld saw a posting for a Director of Graduate Education and Fellowships and applied; in 2019, they were promoted to Associate Dean of Education. When Sara Quay was named Provost of Endicott in 2022, the rest, as they say, was history.

As the first Myrt Harper Rose ’56 Dean, Threlkeld is committed to developing educators and leaders who demonstrate humility, compassion, and respect; engage in experiential and lifelong learning; implement evidence-based and culturally relevant practices; and disrupt injustice wherever it exists.

“Education is the foundation of civic life and ultimately our democracy. Today more than ever we know how much we need teachers to teach us how to work together, take care of each other, and learn the skills and mindsets necessary to contribute productively in the 21st century.”

Threlkeld is also focused on expanding the school’s global reach, providing more opportunities for teacher candidates to study abroad while increasing faculty ranks to ensure all core specialties in teacher education are represented.

Long term, Threlkeld would like to develop a cross-disciplinary center for leadership that enshrines as one of its core values the need to develop a pipeline of K-12 and higher education leaders who can translate educational research to policy and successful business practices. “I want Endicott’s School of Education to be part of the solution to this growing leadership gap,” they said.

Threlkeld is also an ardent advocate for LGBTQIA+ families and Black families who have children with disabilities, and, while education has taken the fore professionally, art remains a bedrock of their life. They frequent museums in Boston for inspiration and are also a prolific reader and writer—this year, one of Threlkeld’s poems will be published in an anthology of Romani voices.

By now, the initial shock of the named deanship has worn off, but as Threlkeld prepares to receive another degree, it still feels like the beginning.

“I want to keep learning,” said Threlkeld. “I want to keep growing and make my grandmother proud.”

Threlkeld will give a talk at the Center for Belonging on gender identity and expression on March 30 at 5 p.m.