The Board of Overseers, the group of 30 alumni who make up the University’s second-highest governing body, unanimously confirmed Drew Gilpin Faust as Harvard’s 28th president at a specially scheduled meeting yesterday.
Twenty-two overseers were in attendance at the confirmation meeting, marking a record for recent times, according to overseer Frances D. Fergusson, who served on the search committee.
News that the search panel had settled on Faust broke late Thursday night, but a president cannot be elected with the Overseers’ approval. Their consent was widely expected going into yesterday’s meeting.
The overseers began arriving at Loeb House—the office of the governing boards—at around 10:30 a.m.
“Look for the white smoke!” joked overseer Mitchell L. Adams ’66 as he entered.
The meeting began around 11:30 a.m., and committee members opened with a discussion of the search process and Faust’s candidacy, Fergusson said.
Faust arrived at about 12:50 p.m., accompanied by her husband, Harvard professor Charles Rosenberg, who kissed her before she entered, telling her to “knock ’em dead.”
Faust addressed the Overseers and they had the opportunity to question her, Fergusson said.
Overseer Helen M. Blau said the discussion focused on “what Harvard needs,” but she declined to go into specifics. The conversation with Faust lasted about 45 minutes, and Faust then left the room.
After a brief deliberation period, the Overseers unanimously approved Faust’s appointment.
“When she came back in, everybody stood up and applauded,” Fergusson said, noting that they “shared champagne and raised a glass in her honor.”
Exiting Loeb House after the meeting, several overseers said they were pleased with Faust’s selection.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said overseer Seth P. Waxman ’73.
Corporation fellow and search committee memeber Robert D. Resichauer ’63 said there was “widespread support among all those who were involved in the decision process today.”
The search committee met with the Overseers at each of the board’s regular meetings during the search to brief the Overseers on the search’s progress.
At a meeting in December, the committee shared a list of 30 candidates with the Overseers. But at the regularly scheduled Feb. 4 meeting, no names were discussed, one overseer said last week. The overseer asked not to be named because the process is considered confidential.
The Overseers are often seen as a “rubber stamp” in Harvard governance, according to Andrew B. Schlesinger ’70, author of “Veritas: Harvard College and the American Experience.”
“You only hear about the Overseers when they do something exceptional,” he said yesterday, citing the 1953 election of Nathan M. Pusey ’28 when two overseers—J. Robert Oppenheimer ’25 and Joseph Alsop ’32—opposed Pusey’s candidacy.
Unanimity is generally expected, Schlesinger said.
In the last presidential search, Lawrence H. Summers also gained unanimous approval from the Overseers. Summers’ confirmation meeting was held on the 64th floor of a Rockefeller Center skyscraper in midtown Manhattan.
—Staff writer Stephanie S. Garlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.