Pfoho House Masters Step Down

After four years as Pforzheimer House Masters, Nicholas A. Christakis and Erika L. Christakis ’86 will leave Harvard this summer to take on new positions at Yale.

In an email to the Pforzheimer community on Wednesday announcing their departure, the Christakises expressed mixed feelings about their “very difficult” decision to resign from their post as House Masters, which they assumed in 2009.

It was hard to envision leaving this place,” they wrote.

Nicholas, currently a sociology professor at Harvard Medical School and in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said he will “build an exciting new program at the intersection of the social and natural sciences” at Yale, his alma mater. Erika, who does not teach at Harvard, will become a lecturer at Yale’s Child Study Center.

Many Pfoho residents and House staff said they were surprised by their House Masters’ announcement.

“I’m really upset,” said Matthew S. Chuchul ’13, an outgoing Pfoho House Committee chair. “They are fantastic, very supportive, very available.”

Kathleen Walsh, who has been a Pfoho dining hall employee for more than 25 years, observed that Pfoho residents were “already very sad.”

“That’s a family. You don’t often see families [as House Masters],” Walsh said of the Christakises, whose three children have lived in the House with them. “I hate to see them go.”

Though Pfoho resident dean Lisa Boes said that Yale offers “a great professional opportunity” for the Christakises, she expressed regret about their departure.

“They have really given their heart and soul to the House,” she said.

Christine L. Shrock ’13 put it another way. “They really shape the House spirit and culture. They’re a defining presence at Pfoho,” she said. “We’re proud to have them as House Masters.”

Earlier this month, the Christakises published an op-ed in Time criticizing the College administration’s response to flyers with inflammatory language distributed on campus. In their article, they critiqued administrators for prioritizing issues of free speech over “more pressing problems for our students, such as the sexist and dangerous behaviors that still go unchecked behind closed doors” in student social spaces.

Though the Christakises did not provide a timetable for when their successors would be appointed in their email, they voiced confidence that Pfoho would not be disrupted by their departure.

“There’s a well-established process for house master selection for which student participation is essential, and we will do all we can to make the transition as smooth as possible,” they wrote.

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at layaanasu@college.harvard.edu.

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