Drew Gilpin Faust: New President of Harvard

Historians in the News

Harvard University is planning to name the first woman president in its 371-year history — Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian who runs a research institute at the university, according to university officials close to selection process.

Dr. Faust’s ascension would come a year after Lawrence H. Summers, a former Treasury secretary, resigned from the post amid fierce faculty discontent. The opposition erupted in part over Dr. Summers suggestion that intrinsic aptitude could help explain why fewer women than men reach the highest ranks of science and math in universities.

Harvard’s 30-member Board of Overseers is to meet Sunday and is expected to give her final approval, according to the officials.Dr. Faust is currently dean of the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, by far the smallest of Harvard’s schools. Much of the research sponsored by the institute, which is named after Radcliffe College, once the women’s college at Harvard, emphasizes the study of women, gender and society.

The institute is a research organization, sponsoring about 50 fellows a year, with a staff of about 80. Its budget of about $17 million a year is barely 0.5 percent of Harvard’s $3 billion annual budget. Despite her lack of experience running a large organization, Dr. Faust was apparently perceived by the nine-member search committee as an adroit administrator with considerable people skills, a valued commodity after the polarization that occurred under Dr. Summers, particularly among women on the faculty.

The expected announcement was reported by The Harvard Crimson. John Longbrake, a university spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the selection.

Dr. Faust’s colleagues describe her as a consensus-builder, in contrast to Dr. Summers, who made many enemies on the faculty with his brash and abrasive style and his drive to overhaul a culture on the campus that some thought had become complacent.

Dr. Summers turned to Dr. Faust two years ago to help calm the furor over his remarks about women in math, engineering and science. He asked her to oversee two committees he created to come up with new ways to recruit, retain and promote women in those fields at Harvard.

“She really has the potential for being a very wise and successful president,” said Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, who was herself among several dozen potential candidates for the Harvard presidency whose names became public in December.

“Complex institutions need wise leaders with vision who can inspire collaboration for change,” said Dr. Gutmann, who had said repeatedly that she intended to remain at Penn. “And Drew has all that it takes to be such a leader. She has a strong backbone and sense and sensibility.”

Harvard will be the fourth of the eighth Ivy League universities to name a woman as its president and some of its faculty members had been hoping that it would break the sex barrier.

Read entire article at NYT

comments powered by Disqus