Rosemary Magee

Defining the future
As the new vice president and secretary of the University, Rosemary Magee ’82G has to attend to plenty of logistics, from “meetings to memos to minutes,” as she puts it.
But through her more than two decades at Emory, she has learned to welcome diversions—those tangents of thought, spontaneous conversations, or unexpected detours that often lead to insights and adventures.
“Life is most satisfying when lived in the diversions, which for an interval may turn into the main event,” says Magee. “I’m a big believer in diversions as a positive part of life.”
Magee, formerly senior associate dean for Emory College, began working in the college after completing her PhD in literature and religion at the Graduate Institute for Liberal Arts. She lives in Decatur with her husband, Ron Grapevine, an electrical engineer; they have a grown daughter, Rebecca, and a teen-age son, Sean.
“Most people attend college for four years. After that, they are able to move on to the next stage of their lives,” said Magee, in a recent essay she wrote for the faculty and staff newspaper. “I’m proud to admit that I’ve spent the last two decades of my life in college. . . . I’ve not yet had a day when I felt as if I’d learned everything I wanted to know.”
College Dean Bobby Paul says Magee “has been the mainstay of the college office under five deans. She is, quite literally, irreplaceable. I can only express relief that she will be just shouting distance away across the Quad.”
In her new position, Magee will work closely with the Board of Trustees, the President’s Cabinet, and other groups involved in the governance of the University. She is heavily involved in the ongoing strategic planning process, and sits on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, helping to craft a vision for Emory’s future.
Magee says she accepted the promotion, which makes her one of the highest-ranking female administrators on campus and the only woman in the President’s Cabinet, after President James W. Wagner, Trustee Ben Johnson ’65C, and others helped her to see “the opportunity for creativity in the position.
“I was anxious to see how Emory would evolve at this moment in history with this group of people assembled to lead, which would include me,” says Magee. “Social philosopher Richard Rorty says, ‘The future is our definition of it.’ And we are at a defining moment.”
Magee formally took over the position on February 1 from Gary Hauk ’91PhD, who served as secretary of the University for more than a decade under presidents James T. Laney, William M. Chace, and Wagner, and is now vice president and deputy to the president. 
“Rosemary knows many of our trustees and has worked with them over the years on the Arts Center project, in fundraising, and on other initiatives,” says Hauk. “She’s widely respected . . . and she knows the way the University works and appreciates its distinctive culture. Besides which, she’s just very smart and kind, which is always a powerfully effective combination of qualities.”
As executive director of the Arts Project, Magee has had prior experience with bringing a complex vision to life. She was instrumental in the fundraising, conceptualization, and creation of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, which opened in the fall of 2002.
“In the way of all important and creative processes, there are moments when there are lots of different, competing energies, and then there are moments of clarity,” says Magee, who is also a published short-story author. “You start off with a piece of land, an idea, a blank page, a vision. It’s a struggle some days and a dance other days, but the exciting thing is the unfolding.”
The important thing in work as in life, she says, is knowing which path—or diversion—to follow.
“The university is really a unique and special place in the world, and our responsibility is to maintain that,” Magee says. “We are not a business, not a think tank, not a government agency, not a foundation, not a city council, not a church, and not a hospital—even though we include a hospital, that is not all of who we are. We are, instead, a preserver and creator of knowledge, which is an ancient and honorable role.”—M.J.L.






© 2005 Emory University