Monday, June 7, 2021

By: Franco LaTona

It’s with great sadness that the Butler School of Music announces the departure of Director Mary Ellen Poole on July 31st. She has accepted a position as Carnegie Mellon University's Stanley and Marcia Gumberg Dean of the College of Fine Arts beginning August 1st.

Poole came to the Butler School in 2014 and also holds a faculty position as the Florence Thelma Hall Centennial Chair in Music and professor of musicology.

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Photo by: Nathan Russell

Affectionately known for her advocacy on behalf of students, during her tenure Poole hired more than a dozen world-renowned musicians, expanded alumni relations, increased donations and giving all while driving the school’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion. 

In addition, Poole started the Rainwater Innovation Grants initiative; the grants have funded countless student projects and expanded the Butler School’s impact in the city of Austin beyond the confines of the University.

“The past seven years have been an intense learning experience,” Poole said. “I learned that I love being in the hectic middle of a research university, that even this bureaucracy can be deciphered, and that important principles require small stubborn steps.”

The Butler School’s Associate Director Jeffrey Hellmer will serve as interim director for the 2021-22 school year while UT’s College of Fine Arts searches for a permanent replacement.

"Mary Ellen Poole's vision and leadership unified and transformed the Butler School community during extraordinary times,” Hellmer said. “Her advocacy for our artists and scholars inspired all of us. We will miss her greatly."

Dr. Ryan Kelly, assistant director of bands and associate professor of practice in wind conducting, will serve as the Butler School’s interim associate director for a two-year term to aid in the transition to new leadership.

“I'm humbled to be stepping into Professor Hellmer's shoes as Associate Director next year,” Kelly said. “And what I’ll miss most about Dr. Poole is her persistent and fearless advocacy for her students, no matter the obstacles. Her willingness to have difficult conversations and embrace necessary change is the substance of true leadership.”