Drew Gilpin Faust: Historian may emerge to lead Harvard





A prominent female historian and Harvard dean, who has never run a major institution, appears to be the front-runner for the Harvard University presidency now that a Nobel prize-winning scientist has bowed out.

Drew Gilpin Faust , head of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study , is a Southern-bred scholar with a dry wit and unflappable demeanor, colleagues say. If chosen, she would be the university's first female president, named two years after former president Lawrence H. Summers speculated that women had less aptitude for science than men.

The university's two governing boards are meeting this weekend but appear unlikely to vote on a new president. Sources familiar with the search say Faust is the top candidate, but the search committee could still consider others.

Supporters say Faust, 59, commands respect for her scholarship, sound judgment , and power of persuasion. But some professors and alumni worry that she lacks the experience and record of bold innovation to run Harvard.

Faust's biggest administrative job is the one she currently holds. The Radcliffe Institute is the smallest academic unit of Harvard, and the only one with no students or full-time faculty. Last year Radcliffe had a $17 million budget, more than 80 staff members, and a $473 million endowment . Harvard had a $3 billion budget, more than 10,000 faculty and staff, and a $29.2 billion endowment.

The person considered the other lead candidate, Thomas R. Cech , president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, withdrew from consideration on Wednesday....

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