From construction battalions overseas to a New York pandemic field hospital, new campus planning leader brings broad experience

Dean Tufts’ facilities experience ranges from leading a U.S. Navy mobile construction battalion in Iraq to driving the 21-day build of a COVID-19 field hospital at a large public university.

But in the 33 years since he earned his undergraduate degree from Cornell University, he’s never worked at a private institution of higher education—until now.

Effective Aug. 11, the Massachusetts native becomes Case Western Reserve’s next vice president for campus planning and facilities management.

“Dean brings an extraordinary breadth and depth of knowledge of his field—as well as impressive understanding of the skills needed to engage multiple constituencies in bringing projects to fruition,” Executive Vice President John Sideras said. “He will be an outstanding addition to our team.”

Tufts comes to Cleveland after three years at Stony Brook University, where his responsibilities included operations and maintenance of 13 million square feet of facilities and a $90-million-per-year capital plan. Major campus projects included a new 100,000 square-foot engineering building and a new 170,000 square-foot student union, as well as significant renovation of a 318,000 square-foot chemistry building.

Prior to joining Stony Brook, Tufts spent three decades in the U.S. Navy, the last two in Washington, D.C. as deputy chief management officer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, an area that included 22,000 facilities and engineering staff spread across 100 locations around the world. Other assignments took him to Hawaii, California, Tennessee, Japan and Afghanistan.

“My wife, Anne, and I are so excited to be joining the Case Western Reserve team. With the university’s dedication to social mobility and community engagement, we knew this is where we wanted to be. I look forward to joining the Campus Planning and Facilities Management group and continuing its unwavering service to our campus community.”

Tufts will arrive as construction begins on nearly 200,000 square feet of residence hall space on Murray Hill Road near the newly renovated Fribley Commons. The university’s most recent master plan also calls for an Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building, as well as other initiatives to establish distinctive, welcoming gateways along borders to the south and west of campus.

Sideras thanked Chris Panichi, director of planning, design and construction, for serving as the interim leader for the division since the start of the year. Panichi and his team maintained progress on multiple university projects, including construction of new residence halls on the south side of campus that will increase available housing by 600 beds. 

He also expressed his gratitude to the search committee, chaired by Katie Brancato, vice president and chief of staff to the president, and Blanton Tolbert, vice dean for diversity and inclusive excellence at the School of Medicine and professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences.