Farewell, Fox

The School of Public Health honors founding dean Terrie ‘Fox’ Wetle’s decades of service to Brown with a retirement celebration.

Terrie ‘Fox’ Wetle, the founding dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, will be retiring at the end of this academic year. On May 23, 2023, a special event was held to honor her remarkable contributions at Brown spanning over two decades. Her unwavering service, dedication and commitment have been instrumental in shaping the school and establishing its reputation as one of the leading institutions for public health research and education in the country. To honor Fox and her achievements, faculty, students, staff, alumni and community members gathered at the School of Public Health for a celebration with joyous reunion energy thanks to the many guests who returned to campus especially for the occasion.

Several esteemed speakers took the stage during the event, including Interim Dean Ron Aubert, Deputy Dean Dr. Megan Ranney, and Ira Wilson, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice. Professor Wilson was recruited in 2010 by Fox and the Florence Pierce Grant University Professor, Vincent Mor, to serve as the inaugural Chair of the Department of Health Services Policy and Practice.

“I can’t begin to enumerate the things I have learned from Fox,” Wilson said at the celebration. “But let me say that I have never worked with a leader whom I trust more to be direct, to be honest, to see the important angles of a problem that others often miss, to not be afraid to say what needs to be said—or do what needs to be done—and to be wise and balanced in her approach, no matter how vexing the problem.”

In 2000, Fox Wetle left her position as deputy director of the NIH’s National Institute on Aging to become Brown’s first associate dean of medicine for public health and public policy. She would eventually unite Brown’s research centers, dedicated to areas such as gerontology, primary care, HIV/AIDS, addiction and international health, into a cohesive program.

For over 15 years, Wetle pursued the vision of establishing a school of public health at Brown. She collaborated with three University presidents, five provosts and four deans of Brown’s Medical School, one of whom was her husband, Dr. Richard Besdine. Wetle’s dedication bore fruit when, in 2016, the School of Public Health achieved accreditation on its first attempt.

“Twenty-three years ago, Vince Mor began a campaign to recruit me away from the NIH,” Wetle said at the event:

“ He had a vision of bringing together a department of community health. He said, ‘Have I got a deal for you!’ And if any of you have ever tried to say no to Vince, you know that eventually he will wear you down. And he did. So in October of 2000, I arrived and joined a small but powerful group of faculty to build what is now the Brown University School of Public Health. I was blessed in this endeavor with exceptional faculty and staff, with superb students coming into the program and with highly valued community collaborators. We were able to take a single department, divide it into sections and turn them into departments. We were able to grow our academic offerings. Our research centers grew and thrived, conducting excellent research and training the next generation of academic leaders. And in all of that, my goal was to develop a school that felt like family. And at this moment I feel like a very proud matriarch who is looking at the amazing achievements of my many, many offspring. I really feel fortunate to have spent the last third of my career in this place. ”

Fox Wetle

“Fox came to Brown in 2000 as part of a ‘spousal recruitment package,’” said Professor Mor. “Don Marsh, who was dean of Biomed at the time, agreed to help me recruit Richard Besdine to be the director of the gerontology center and the first David S. Greer Chair of Geriatrics. Don thought he was doing me a favor. But literally within two months after Fox got here, he thanked me and thanked me and thanked me – because she was the best hire he ever made.”

Fox Wetle Tribute Video


May 30, 2017: This video is a tribute to the legacy of Terrie Fox Wetle, the inaugural dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.