Harvard's brightest stars--its well-respected and well-treated faculty members--keep the Harvard name in the national spotlight. Their names appear in newspaper articles, their faces on television, their opinions in the magazines of the country' intelligentsia.
Naturally, undergraduates eager to learn from the best and the brightest regularly pack the largest auditorium for faculty luminaries' courses. But the edge of the podium is the closest some of these professors ever get to undergraduates. And from the student's vantage point--the back of the crowded lecture hall--Harvard's biggest personalities tend to look pretty small.
Among the best known Harvard names is Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein '61, who was a close runner-up in the search for the Harvard presidency a few year ago. During Ronald Reagan's first term, Feldstein chaired the Council of Economic Advisors and got into several publicized battles with other members of the administration over the dangers of the growing deficit. The hundreds of undergraduates who take Feldstein's "Ec 10," usually the largest course at Harvard, will get a detailed explanation of why Marty was right, as well as a presentation of the basics of micro and macro with a conservative spin.
Always approaching Ec 10 in size is Historical Study A-12, which for years was taught Dillon Professor Joseph S. Nye Jr., now a top official at the Department of Defense. Mellon Professor of the Social Sciences Stanley H. Hoffman has now taken over the course.
Redeveloping countries in Eastern Europe are seeing more of some Harvard professors than anyone in Cambridge. Perennial globetrotter Jeffrey D. Sachs '76, professor of economics, often lends his help overseas. Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel is another of the many Harvard professors and affiliates who have advised former Soviet republics in recent years.
Many of Harvard's offerings in government and public policy have been hurt by the now two-year-old exodus of faculty to jobs in the Clinton administration. In addition to Nye, Ropes Professor of Political Economy, Kennedy School Lecturer Robert B. Reich and a host of other faculty and administrators have left on the Washington shuttle.
In the News
Perennial faces in the news include out-spoken Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz, the author of Chutzpah, who recently made headlines for his comment on "Good Morning America" in which he said that police officers are trained to lie on the witness stand. (That remark sparked a recent protest by more than 60 area police officers outside The Dersh's office in early June.) Ron Silver played Dershowitz in Reversal of Fortune, a film based on Dersh's defense of Rhode Island aristocrat Claus von Bulow.
Bringing Harvard's once-beleaguered Department of Afro-American Studies into a new era is DuBois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis Gates Jr., who had been at Duke University for only one year when Harvard grabbed him. Bitter Duke students joked that Gates got his nickname, "Skip," because he jumped so frequently from job to job.
Gates used his pull to bring in Harvard's most famous visiting faculty member, filmmaker Spike Lee. And Princeton University scholar Cornel R. West, author of "Colored People," joined the faculty in another coup for Harvard last year.
This year, one of the most well-known visiting faculty will be George F. Will, a conservative columnist and television pundit.
Although he sometimes teaches a seminar for first years, Professor of Psychology and Medical Humanities Robert Coles '50 is best known on campus for his huge elective, General Education 105. Sometimes called "Guilt," the course explores the pitiful lives of American writers and is a famous gut.
Coles is one of many Harvard professors who regularly writes for national magazines. In June, Coles received a generous grant to lead public service projects in Boston.
Professor of English Robert S. Brustein, the founder and director of the American Repertory Theater who teaches lecture courses on dramatic writing, often appears in The New Republic.
Professor of English Marjorie Garber, a Shakespeare expert and cultural critic, is a frequent contributor to The New York Times op-ed page. A. Kingsley Porter University Professor Helen H. Vendler, an unparalleled expert on poetry, writes for the New Yorker and other publications. The author of the recent book "Soul Says," Vendler is also a contributor to the New York Times Sunday Book Review section. (In June, Vendler reviewed Bill Moyer's new book, "A Festival of Poets.")