A unanimous vote on a mildly chilly Sunday confirmed what the Harvard community had suspected for days—Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Drew Gilpin Faust was to become the 28th President of Harvard University.
Faust symbolizes a break from recent tradition in many ways: she never attended Harvard, she has a strong academic background, and she loves the academy. And, of course, there is the two X-chromosome thing.
Beyond these sweeping attributes, however, Faust’s character remains largely a mystery to the majority of students at her future home. In order to get a better idea of the new lady behind the Veritas, FM delved into Faust’s past to paint a picture, through personal recollections, of a woman with a deep love for engaging in academic discussion, encouraging leadership, and fostering relationships both in an outside the office. A break from tradition, indeed.
A WOMAN OF VALOR
“Principles are at the forefront of Drew’s behavior,” says Samuel H. Preston, a professor of demography at Penn, where Faust taught for 25 years. “This is going to be an antidote to Larry Summers.” But Preston stressed that Faust could have followed anyone. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]
Indeed, many scholars who have known Faust in a professional context praised her scholarship and intellectual engagement with work. John C. Inscoe, a professor of history at the University of Georgia and the secretary-treasurer of the Southern Historical Association (where Faust once served as president), says that Faust has “more than proven herself as a scholar and historian.” Inscoe also commented on Faust’s deft leadership of the Radcliffe Institute, where the intellectual and creative environment that Faust fosters keeps visiting scholars happy. “They all come back singing her praises.”
Faust directed Radcliffe’s transformation into a leading research facility, bringing together scholars from various fields across the country. Former Radcliffe Fellows remember Faust’s attention and concern with them and their work. “Recently I was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute,” said Jacquelyn D. Hall, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina, “and that year I was president of the Organization of American Historians and I ran into some potentially very difficult problems.” Hall says she went straight to Faust’s office. The two talked out Hall’s problem, Faust advising along the way. “She laid out a plan of action,” Hall says.
Hall, who has visited a number of residential institutes for scholars, said she’s never attended an institute where the dean has been so intellectually engaged. Hall described Faust as one of those rare people who can steer you through the most difficult situations and catch a movie when you want to relax on the weekends. “Those don’t go together very often,” Hall says. “She moves into all these realms with this grace, humor, and wisdom,” she continues. “You’re dealing with a real person.”
In addition to her duties at Radcliffe, the multifaceted Faust serves on the board at Bryn Mawr College (where she graduated in ’68), the National Humanities Center, the Educational Advisory board of the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Lawrence R. Ricciardi, a trustee at the Mellon Foundation, worked with Faust as the organization moved between presidents. “Drew has been utterly fearless and highly principled in dealing with these issues,” Ricciardi says, “always without losing her sense of humor.”
But her public accomplishments in the boardroom and the dean’s office paint only a partial picture of the real Drew Faust.
HOUSE AND HOME
Before she was a an adminstrator, Faust was a popular teacher. “The first vivid image I have of her was at a conference,” Hall reminiscences, “This would have been in the mid-80s...I just have an image of her standing at a cocktail party or reception and students gathering around her. A kind of love and respect that was just visible. You could see it.”
And even given her impressive duties, Faust wears two hats like a pro: she’s a mother as well as a career academic. Her husband, Charles E. Rosenberg, is the Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard. “He’s a totally brilliant man. The number one medical historian in the world,” said Preston. Together, Faust and Rosenberg form quite a power couple—but you would never guess it from their low-key demeanors. “When you sit and talk to them, power is the furthest thing from your mind.” Preston says.
“We talk about kids,” says Paul LeClerc, president and CEO the New York Public Library and a fellow trustee at the Mellon foundation. “Drew’s a devoted mother...It’s really significant in a highly successful individual.”
Ricciardi gets the same impression of Faust as parent. “I know that Drew spends lots of time with her daughter, they have mother-daughter time together, theater trips and museum trips.”
Hopefully, Harvard’s next President will hold more than two hours of office hours in a semester for curious undergraduatres. However, unless Drew Faust opens up a facebook.com profile anytime soon, the comments of her peers are all that students have to go on, for now.Sidebar: Radcliffe Rundown, a short history of the Radcliffe Institute
The Feb. 15 magazine article "Another Side of Faust" incorrectly implied that
H. Preston, a professor of demography at the University of
Pennsylvania, was criticizing Lawrence H. Summers when he called
President-elect Drew Gilpin Faust "an antidote" to the former Harvard
leader. In fact, as Preston later noted in a message to The Crimson, he
believes Summers was "instrumental in moving Harvard in positive
directions." The article should have made Preston's views clearer.