Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the largest academic department at Hofstra University, has found a new dean in Benjamin Rifkin, a scholar of Russian language and literature who has served as provost at Ithaca College, school officials announced.

Rifkin, 56, will succeed longtime dean Bernard Firestone, who after 20 years announced he was stepping down from the post. Firestone, 67, plans to take a sabbatical and then return to the faculty to teach politics.

“What excites me is that Hofstra has this incredible trajectory, having been founded in the 20th century,” said Rifkin. “So quickly the institution has risen to such prominence.”

Hofstra was founded in 1935. In the last decade, the Hempstead-based university has expanded its academic offerings in the health science professions by opening a medical school, an engineering school, a graduate nursing school and a school of public health.

With about 6,700 students, Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the largest department and is the home of the Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs.

Rifkin will begin his term at Hofstra on June 15. Before his appointment in Ithaca, he was dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at The College of New Jersey. He was born in the Bronx and raised in Rockland County and Bergen County, New Jersey. He will move to Long Island with his wife, Lisa Fell, an academic adviser, he said.

Firestone, of West Hempstead, is a professor of political science and has been a member of the faculty at Hofstra for nearly 40 years.

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An estimated one-third of the Hofstra University graduates hold a degree in the liberal arts, Firestone said.

The college includes the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; the Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs; the School of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts; and the School of Education.