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President Neil L. Rudenstine announced this morning that he will leave Harvard at the end of this coming year.
While some said his announcement came suddenly, Rudenstine emphasized the timeliness of the decision.
"It's exactly the right thing for the University. We start a new planning process," he said. "There's no advantage to be gained by postponing the beginning of that. It seems the right moment for Harvard."
His resignation comes at the conclusion of a six-year capital campaign that has marked his tenure. He has raised $2.6 billion.
"He leaves the field with the bands all playing," said Derek C. Bok, former Harvard president. "I congratulate him on a job well done."
Robert G. Stone, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, praised Rudenstine's commitment to the institution.
"Harvard has benefited immeasurably from Neil Rudenstine's wisdom, his humanity, his passion for learning, and his extraordinary leadership," Stone said in a press release.
According to Angelica Zander Rudenstine, her husband only told his family about his decision in the last 24 hours--he wanted the Harvard Corporation to be the first to know.
Angelica Rudenstine said that her husband made his decision entirely on his own, with only the University's best interest in mind.
"He now feels the University is in such a dynamic state that a new planning process needs to be launched," she said, explaining her husband's decision. "He couldn't possibly be the one to carry out a plan he might be able to initiate--he's not quite as young as he looks."
Rudenstine said his goals for the following year are many, but still achievable.
"It would be nice to be able to get approval of the Knafel Center [for Government and International Study] and raise the money to build it," he said.
In addition, Rudenstine hopes to start work on a new University museum as well as continuing to think about the larger issues like distance learning and globalization.
These larger issues, Rudenstine said, are going to be part of any Harvard agenda.
"He is determined to make this a very full and extremely hardworking year for Harvard," Angela Rudenstine said. "He has tremendous energy."
She said the couple has not made any plans for their future after he steps down--but she says her husband still has high hopes for his last year in his post.
Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Paul Grogan said University officials who work with Rudenstine have mixed feelings about his announcement but respect his decision to leave.
"It's a bitter sweet occasion because Neil is so well-liked and highly regarded," Grogan said.
Dean of the Medical School Joseph B. Martin also expressed some nostalgia at Rudenstine's decision.
"I was personally saddened to learn that he has decided to step down as our president," Martin said. "However, I understand that after ten years of distinguished service to the university he might choose to take on less onerous activities."
Bok, who has himself been in a similar situation, said "he has more than earned the opportunity to enjoy life in a somewhat different way than being the president of Harvard allows you to do."
While Rudenstine leaves behind a colorful legacy, he said two achievements most important to him personally are revitalizing Harvard's Afro-American program and seeing Harvard and Radcliffe come together in a way "that both institutions were happy about."
Rudenstine was also a major negotiator in the merger between Radcliffe College and Harvard, out of which came the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Former Radcliffe president Linda S. Wilson said that Rudenstine has left an impressive legacy.
"We will look back on President Rudenstine's tenure as a decade of remarkable performance in every sphere," Wilson said. "The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is the largest and newest of several major initiatives that Rudenstine has helped bring to fruition."
In addition to his work on the campaign, Rudenstine has been known for his attempts to make the University less decentralized.
Rudenstine meets with all of the deans of Harvard's graduate schools regularly.
The provost--an office he reinstated during his tenure--helps him provide leadership, is a deputy president when he is away, and serves as the other academic voice in Massachusetts Hall, which is largely occupied by administrators.
Rudenstine was an undergraduate at Princeton University be--now 65--has served as Harvard's president since 1991. He was a Rhodes Scholar.
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