Drew Gilpin Faust: Praised for her leadership of a small institute, new chief must prove she can tame a bigger beast

Historians in the News

In the stratified world of higher education's most elite institutions, where professional jealousies abound, Drew Gilpin Faust appears to have achieved the seemingly impossible. She is a career academic who has risen to the top job at Harvard University while apparently making no enemies along the way.

"I truly have known her for 20 years, and I have yet to meet anyone who dislikes her," says Lynn Hunt, a professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Ms. Faust's finely tuned people skills — her willingness to listen and reach out to newcomers — have earned her the respect of her colleagues as well as of high-placed university officials in the three decades she has spent in higher education.

Her predecessor, Lawrence H. Summers, came to consider Ms. Faust a trusted counselor, not only on gender issues but also on other matters as he battled to regain respect from professors and retain the loyalty of the Harvard Corporation, the university's governing board.

Yet even as she advised him, Ms. Faust was careful to keep her distance, steering clear of the warring factions on Harvard's faculty and avoiding a label as one of Mr. Summers's supporters or detractors.

Some at the university see Ms. Faust's actions as having been calculated, moving her ever closer to the presidency at Harvard. But professors who know her insist she is genuine. "Becoming president of Harvard is not a dream for Drew," says Bruce H. Mann, a law professor at Harvard. "She's doing it because she cares about the university."

While Ms. Faust might seem an unusual choice for the job — she has no Harvard degree (the first Harvard president without one since 1672) and has spent only six years at the university, running the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, one of its smallest units — her colleagues say she is a natural. Interviews with two dozen professors and administrators, inside Harvard and out, portray Ms. Faust as an unflappable administrator and as a consensus builder with "uncommon common sense," as one professor puts it, who will care more about the success of the university than about making her own mark....
Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

comments powered by Disqus