Presidential Search Remains in ‘Information-Gathering Mode’

Faust at 2021 Convocation
The search to find a successor to University President Drew G. Faust is still in information-gathering

The search for Harvard’s next president remains in “information-gathering mode” several months after University President Drew G. Faust announced that she will step down at the end of the academic year, according to a member of the committee leading the search.

According to Susan L. Graham, a member of the Harvard Corporation, the search committee met numerous times over the summer to discuss the search and the qualities they’d like to see in Harvard’s next president. The committee has not yet discussed individual candidates, she said. All twelve members of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, and three members of the Board of Overseers, the University’s second highest governing board, serve on the search committee.

“You have to know what you're looking for before you consider particular individuals,” Graham said. “When you do a search you start out by not only talking among yourselves, but talking to a ton of other people. And that’s what we’re doing.”

The committee will work with two advisory panels of faculty and students to eventually narrow down a list of candidates from several hundred to a short list the committee will ultimately choose from, Corporation senior fellow William F. Lee’ 72 said this summer.

The process could take months: Harvard’s previous presidential search, resulting in Faust’s selection, lasted nearly ten months.

During the 2001 search—before the creation of the student and faculty advisory committees in 2006—members of the search committee were sitting down with House Committee chairs and Undergraduate Council leaders by October. On Oct. 13, 2001, the committee announced that it had a list of 400 potential candidates, which came out of 200 personal interviews and a thousand letters from affiliates.

Graham, who was also on the search committee that selected Faust in 2007 and has known her for years, said she “exudes values” and is a “wonderful communicator.” Graham also praised Faust’s efforts to better integrate Harvard’s various schools, which formerly had been more disparate.

“Nobody fits every requirement,” Graham said. “Part of what you do when you do a search is try to judge the likelihood that the person will grow into the parts of the role that he or she hasn’t held before.”

Although Faust came from Harvard’s smallest school, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, her experience as a dean meant she was used to dealing with the problems that come with running an institution, including budgetary issues. Former Executive Vice President Ed C. Forst ’82 said in a May interview that Faust was able to make choices as she was backed into a corner by the financial crisis.

Finding a leader who can handle the financial side of running Harvard will likely be important this time around. Last year, Harvard Management Company lost almost $2 billion in endowment value, and it is unclear how HMC will fare this year.

“I don’t think the next president is going to be a clone of [Faust], in the sense that an institution always benefits from some amount of change,” Graham said.

—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at leah.yared@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahYared.

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