Retiring EHS Dean Michael E. Dantley Establishes a Legacy of Leadership and Transformative Social Change

Dean Dantley 

“I knew I wanted to teach in second grade,” Michael E. Dantley says. “I was in elementary school, and I thought I want to do this. It's always been in my soul to be a teacher. Always.”

As the retiring Dean of Miami University’s College of Education, Health and Society (EHS), Dantley has come a long way from that enthusiastic young student who would go on to lead and mentor so many throughout his career. It’s also an enthusiasm that has never dimmed.

Across his four decades as a professional educator, critical scholar and theorist, and civically-engaged leader, Dantley has kept education at the heart of his ambition to change lives for the better. His leadership has also coalesced EHS around an enduring vision and mission to solve complex cultural issues by championing social justice, racial equality, diversity, and inclusion.

“Michael has been an outstanding mentor,” says EHS Associate Dean Denise Taliaferro Baszile. “I deeply appreciated and have continued to lean on his words, especially when the going gets rough. I knew I'd always be able to follow his lead -- to count on his honesty, integrity, and ethical commitment to fighting the good fight.”

Honesty, integrity, and commitment are among the words regularly used to describe Dantley. Speak to almost anyone familiar with his life and work, and they’ll also speak about being moved by his humility, his wisdom, his authenticity, and perseverance.Dean Dantley talking to students

“He has worked tirelessly with enormous passion leading, mentoring, and advocating for all students, faculty, and staff,” says Jenn Walter, EHS assistant to the dean. “When he’s not sleeping, he’s working. I’m going to miss Michael’s leadership, but most of all, I’m going to miss working with my good friend. He’s a good soul that will be sorely missed.”

Before serving as dean, Dantley held positions at nearly every level of the educational system.

After starting his career as a Cincinnati Public School elementary teacher in 1973, he became an assistant principal, and then a principal, before transitioning into higher education.

Dantley became an assistant professor at Miami in 1986 and later the chair of the department of educational leadership. He has also served as an associate provost, associate vice president for academic affairs, and EHS associate dean for academic affairs.

In 2013, Dantley earned professor emeritus status, and in 2016 he was honored with the Master Professor Award, which recognizes outstanding teachers and innovative leaders who have contributed significant scholarship to their field.

Through it all, his driving force has always remained the same.   

“I had a vision for how things could be,” Dantley says. “It was about how I could have a broader impact. That’s what motivated me. I wanted to see us coalesce around that vision, to get things done. And so, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a dean. Ending my career as a dean is the best move possible because I believe I’ve had some impact on the college and in the community.”Dean Dantley in a KNH Lab

During his tenure as dean, EHS has continued to expand its numerous partnerships with local schools and school districts. Dantley also set the tone for a teacher education program that’s preparing a new generation of critically responsive teachers who can help schools overcome the systemic barriers that still disproportionality affect marginalized youth.

He’s encouraged the kinds of interdisciplinary projects that bridge gaps between education, social work, kinesiology and health (KNH), sport leadership and management (SLAM), and more. He’s also overseen several new initiatives, such as the Institute for Community, Justice and Well-being, which will allow EHS to better serve the needs of children, families, schools, and agencies across the region.

“His personal and professional convictions have positively impacted those beyond the classroom,” says Nancy Parkinson, KNH associate clinical lecturer. “Along with his community service, he strategically balanced his responsibilities between university administrative duties, leadership in professional organizations, and business in McGuffey and Phillips with the rewards and challenges of working with all the departments.” 

The increased diversity among EHS faculty has been another success for Dantley as well, and many have commended his ongoing support and guidance.Dean Dantley at graduation

“When I first came to Miami, I sought out mentors,” says Anthony James, associate professor of family science and interim vice president for institutional diversity. “And as a new assistant professor, black male, unsure of the academy, this graciousness by Michael helped me find my place in the institution, give me confidence, and allow me to thrive.”

And today, even as retirement approaches, the soul of an enthusiastic teacher still burns bright in Dantley. Education is still his passion.

For Dantley, retirement only signifies another phase in a lifelong mission to build an educational system that works for everybody, to ask tough questions around power and privilege, to enact positive and transformative social change, and to establish a legacy of leadership that others will continue to follow.

“Even now, he serves as a mentor and an inspiration to me, and I am glad to see the work he’s done in the institution,” James says. “I know that he will transition well into retirement and find ways to make an incredible impact on the world and on the community.”

Dr. Michael E. Dantley Scholarship Fund

During the retirement celebration for Dean Dantley, the Chair of the Advisory Council Loren May and EHS Director of Development Carrie Powell surprised Dean Dantley with the announcement of the establishment of the Dr. Michael E. Dantley Scholarship Fund. This new scholarship will support African American students coming from Cincinnati into the college every year. In his closing remarks Dr. Dantley thanked everyone and said "you do not know what this scholarship means to me."

To contribute to the Dr. Michael E. Dantley Scholarship Fund please call Miami's Advancement office at 513-529-5217. Online gifts can be made here. In the "Designations," select the "Give to area of your choice," select "Other Fund," and type in Dantley Fund 5959-001 in the "Comments or additional gift details" field.