Dean Hall, known for approachability and support, leaves UM for Lehigh

Dean of Students Ricardo Hall stands in front of his extensive PEZ collection inside his office Wednesday afternoon. Dean Hall is leaving UM after 11 years to assume the role of Dean of Students at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania next fall. Hunter Crenian // Senior Photographer Photo credit: Hunter Crenian
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Dean of Students Ricardo Hall stands in front of his extensive PEZ collection inside his office Wednesday afternoon. Dean Hall is leaving UM after 11 years to assume the role of Dean of Students at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania next fall. Hunter Crenian // Senior Photographer Photo credit: Hunter Crenian

It was a mix of the warm weather and the University of Miami’s strong academic standing that first brought Dean of Students Ricardo Hall to a quiet campus in summer 2006, while most faculty, staff and students were home on break. Now, Dean Hall is set to join Lehigh University in Pennsylvania as Vice Provost in Student Affairs (VPSA), taking with him all he’s learned from his 11 years at UM.

Hall received his bachelor’s degree in business management and master’s in higher education administration from Ohio University before moving to South Carolina to earn his doctorate at Clemson University. Hall worked at Clemson for three years and then Wake Forest University in North Carolina for six years before coming to UM.

“It was what I believed to be a once-in-a-career opportunity,” Hall said. “There was just a number of things that impressed me about Miami. Top-tier research university, that meant we had strong students, academically, that were gifted in many ways and motivated.”

Hall was also attracted to UM for its athletics program and Greek life because he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, which has a chapter on campus.

Hall has since made the University of Miami campus his home. He’s often seen longboarding around campus and is known for his multicolored bowties and poking fun at students’ social media posts during orientation.

Hall’s time at UM will be the longest he has spent at a single university.

“It’s just different than any other place I worked,” Hall said. “The university is very fast-paced, especially compared to when I was at Wake or at Clemson. The university is reflective of the city – it’s just a fast-paced, richly diverse environment.”

The warm setting and the sense of community that climate fosters are some of the things Hall said he will miss the most about the university.

“When I walk around the breezeway, I can stop and chat it up with one of the students at the tables or go over to the Rock and someone is always there,” Hall said. “I’ll really miss that. Our environment lends to conversation, communication and community building.”

In his office, Hall encourages an open-door policy for all students. And anyone who visits his office will see his collection of PEZ heads. Hall has collected so many that he’s lost count.

“I have a system for it,” Hall said. “I’ll take a picture of them before I pack them away so I know where everything was in case I want to put it back the exact same way.”

But the number of PEZ dispensers, he said, is nothing compared to his home comic book collection – he estimates he has at least 1,500 issues.

Justin Green, a senior manager in Information Technology at UM, called Hall a “comic book geek at heart.” Green first met Hall on the racquetball court in the Wellness Center during Hall’s first year.

“It only gets better with time,” Green said. “I got to know him as a good friend, I got to know him personally, I got to know him as a family man, I got to know him as a colleague.”

Hall said Green was his first friend at UM. To this day, they meet up with a small group of friends during lunch breaks to play racquetball, competing for a trophy every year.

Green described Hall as a “calculated daredevil,” whether it’s in his position as a dean or trying to put Christmas lights on a 30-foot roof with a 30-foot ladder.

“I have a couple of pictures of me holding the bottom of the ladder and the ladder’s almost at a vertical incline onto the roof and he’s hanging on with one leg on, one leg off, trying to wrap lights,” Green said.

Hall has overseen the Dean of Students office, including Greek Life, the chaplain’s office, alcohol and drug education, judicial affairs, veteran student services and the 24-hour crisis response team since 2006. As Dean of Students, Hall’s job includes dealing with student deaths and discipline, along with serving as the advisor to Student Government, Committee on Student Organizations, Honor Council and the UM chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).

For Christa Anderson, vice president of the UM chapter of NABA, Hall has been an asset since he became its advisor in 2010.

“From the first time you meet him, he always lets you know his office is open and that if you need anything you can come to him, email him, call him,” Anderson said. “That’s what makes him such a good advisor, the fact that he’s approachable, that he’s willing to help and that his actions back up his words.”

Outside of NABA, Anderson, along with other students, approached Hall about putting on a “Love Trumps Hate” demonstration following the 2016 presidential election. Because the students were organizing the event on short notice, Anderson said Hall was instrumental in making it happen.

“He was constantly reminding us that he was there for us,” Anderson said.

His effect on the university goes beyond Greek Life and academic ventures. Jian Gou, assistant case manager and international student liaison for the Dean of Students Office, said meeting Hall changed her career as significantly as moving to Miami altered the dean’s path.

Gou started at the University of Miami in 2011 as a graduate student in the higher education administration program.

In her early years as a graduate student, Gou had no driver’s license, so Hall would offer to drive her to conferences at Florida International University. She later learned that Hall lived in the opposite direction.

“I could’ve maybe taken a taxi, but he offered because he knew I didn’t have a car,” Gou said.

After starting a “practical application” experience in Housing and Residential Life and becoming more involved in cases related to international students, Gou was moved to the Dean of Students Office and was given a position as International Student Liaison.

“Dean Hall had the vision to believe that my position was necessary and needed, so he created this position brand new,” Gou said.

Gou said her mentor is unafraid to be open about his personal life, often talking enthusiastically about the AMC series The Walking Dead or inviting staff members to his home for end-of-the-year office parties.

“He’s very approachable, very authentic and calm,” Gou said. Especially at work, sometimes it gets stressful and we have to turn in timely responses for something, but he’s very calm and that helps me and my colleagues as well.”

It is this cool-headedness and willingness to give his staff space to work instead of micromanaging that Gou said makes Hall both a great boss and great person.

“I believe one day he will become a president,” Gou said. “I truly believe that.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely has worked with Hall since he first arrived at the university. Whitely said he will be “greatly missed at UM.”

“Dean Hall was a consummate professional, with a gift for mediation and the unique ability to connect with all students,” Whitely said. “His vision and passion will be sorely missed, and Lehigh is lucky to have him as their new VPSA. We wish him well and thank him for his distinguished service during the last eleven years.”

At Lehigh University, Hall will serve as Vice Provost of Student Affairs, a promoted position from his current one at UM. Just as the University of Miami has begun its own path with long term goals for growth with the Roadmap Initiative, Lehigh also has plans for growth called the Path to Prominence.

The plan includes increasing the undergraduate population by 1,000 and its graduate population by 500 to 800. With the growth will come a demand for revamped residential halls, more staff and new facilities.

“Most of the challenges I really look at as opportunities,” Hall said.

The search process is still underway for Hall’s replacement.