Acting Dean Appointed for Design School

Veteran administrator Alan A. Altshuler has been tapped to serve as acting dean of the Graduate School of Design while the search for a full-time leader continues.

Altshuler, who is Stanton professor of urban policy and planning, will take the reins of the school when current Dean Peter G. Rowe steps down on July 1, University President Lawrence H. Summers announced in an e-mail to school faculty and staff. The interim arrangement, in which Altshuler will lead the school until a new dean is selected and can begin, was also announced at a design school meeting last week.

The University will continue its search for a full-time dean.

“We have made good progress and identified some very interesting candidates,” Summers said in a statement.

Altshuler, who is a member of the design school and Kennedy School of Government faculties, brings extensive administrative experience to the post.

He has previously served as academic dean of the Kennedy School, director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and dean of the New York University Graduate School of Public Administration. He was also Massachusetts secretary of transportation and construction, in addition to serving on the Allston life task force and the University Physical Planning Committee.

Altshuler, who is a member of the dean search committee, could not be reached for comment last night.

Norton Professor of Regional Planning Francois C.D. Vigier said he expected Altshuler to lead the school through most of the next academic year.

“Once somebody has been chosen, whoever it is has to shake himself or herself loose from where they are,” he said. “So it usually takes a few months before they are physically here.”

Spear Professor of Real Estate Development Richard Peyser said he was not surprised that a successor has not yet been named, given the many administrative and academic criteria a dean must satisfy.

“That’s a hard combination to find,” he said. “The people who fill the bill are in great demand and have lots of competing choices.”

In his e-mail, Summers wrote that he had picked Altshuler to lead the school through the transition because of his competence and experience.

“It is important for the School to have such strong and capable leadership during this period of transition,” he wrote. “Such times can be stressful, but they are also important opportunities for reassessment and reflection. Professor Altshuler is well qualified to lead the School during such a period.”

Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design Jerold S. Kayden and Vigier said they doubted not having a full dean would hurt the school.

Peyser said that while the instability of the situation could be detrimental, the selection of Altshuler would facilitate a smooth transition.

“Alan Altshuler is in a unique position to ensure that that does not happen,” he said. “He’s got the standing in the school and confidence of the administration and the experience of having been involved in the administration in both the design school and the Kennedy School and elsewhere.”

—Staff writer Stephen M. Marks can be reached at marks@fas.harvard.edu.