I am writing to let you know that after four years of serving as Dean, I have decided to return to the Faculty at the end of the current academic year.
I do so in the belief that, together, we have set a strong foundation. First, we have invested heavily in the Faculty: by expanding our ranks in every division and discipline; enhancing time for research and discovery; appointing younger colleagues, who, with our support, will flourish here as scholars and teachers; and committing ourselves to a Faculty as diverse as it is strong. Second, we have invested in the architecture and infrastructure that give form to our ambitions in the sciences, international studies, and the arts: the laboratories, centers, studios, and theaters that are now permanent parts of our collective future. Third, and most important, we have recommitted ourselves to our students: by processes of curricular review and renewal; increased financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students alike; and expanded educational opportunities for them across Harvard and around the world. For our continued growth in all these domains we have developed a strong, long-term, financial plan.
The events of the past year have posed serious challenges. Yet we have continued to focus on the essential business before us. As we look to the future, it will be important for the President and the Dean to work closely together, in collaboration with the Faculty, toward our common objectives. I feel confident that my successor, President Summers, and the Faculty as a whole will have a solid basis on which to build. Meanwhile, there is work to be done, and we have a full agenda before us this spring.
For myself, the allure and the increasingly dynamic nature of my field of study—modern and contemporary China—have made my decision a timely and compelling one. I look forward to working with colleagues and students as we extend our study of China’s past, present, and future role in the world.
No one can serve in this office without being grateful for the privilege of working with this stellar faculty, no small number of whom I have had the honor to recruit; of being supported by the dedicated staff that serves us all in FAS; of meeting and befriending our wonderful alumni; and—above all—serving the students for whom, at the end of the day, this University exists.
William C. Kirby