Monday, February 12, 2007

It's official: Faust is first at Harvard

It's official. Harvard's decision makers have spoken. The final pronouncement, on Sunday, simultaneously broke new ground and answered the question: "Is Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust to be (or not to be) the first female president of Harvard?"

Dr. Faust, a noted scholar of the American South and currently Dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, will assume the position on July 1, 2007. That is the answer.

"This is a great day, and a historic day, for Harvard," said James R. Houghton, chairman of the presidential search committee.

Faust has spoken, too. "I hope that my own appointment can be one symbol of an opening of opportunities that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago," she announced at a media conference on campus. She emphasized, "I'm not the woman president of Harvard, I'm the president of Harvard."

[Read the new president's prepared remarks in Harvard Gazette:Harvard Presidential Announcement:Remarks by President-Elect Drew Gilpin Faust.]

Helen Reddy might say: "She is woman. Hear her roar!"

However, you can't please all of the people all of the time.As Associated Press writer, Jesse Harlan Aldermand reports:

Some professors have quietly groused that -- despite the growing centrality of scientific research to Harvard's budget -- the 371-year-old university is appointing a fifth consecutive president who is not a scientist. No scientist has had the top job since James Bryant Conant retired in 1953; its last four have come the fields of classics, law, literature and economics.

Moreover, observes Aldermand (who did not specify whether or not this was a point of contention):

Faust is the first Harvard president who did not receive an undergraduate or graduate degree from the university since Charles Chauncy, an alumnus of Cambridge University in England, whoh died in office in 1672. She attended Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pennsylvania, where she was also a professor of history.

Bryn Mawr by the way, like Radcliffe, is a Seven Sisters College and the University of Pennsylvania, like Harvard, is Ivy League.