Kirshner Chosen As Quincy Master

Next year, Robert P. Kirshner ’70 will return to the House of his undergraduate years—as the new Master.

Kirshner, the astronomy professor who teaches the popular Core course Science A-35, “Matter in the Universe,” was selected to succeed current Quincy House Master Michael Shinagel. Kirshner’s wife, writer-director Jayne Loader, will serve as co-master.

Kirshner announced the recent appointment in “Matter” yesterday.


“Who’s in Quincy House?” he asked his students. “’Cause I am now,” he said as the audience cheered to share in his enthusiasm.

“This is a great way for me and my wife to contribute to Harvard,” Kirshner, who is affiliated with the Quincy Senior Common Room, said yesterday in an interview with The Crimson.

“The Houses provide a real connection between undergraduate life and the academic setting,” Kirshner said. “The Houses are one of the central miracles of Harvard.”

As an undergraduate, Kirshner was the captain of Harvard’s cycling team and participated in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals. As a professor, Kirshner is known for his ability to make physics seem exciting through fun demonstrations, such as shooting Barney the purple dinosaur as he did in class yesterday.

Quincy residents who know Kirshner through classes and an academic setting, said they expect him to reflect the same enthusiasm and passion onto the things he will accomplish in the House.

Brain R. Smith ’02, a Quincy resident taking “Matter,” said he had questioned Kirshner about the possibility of re-initiating some Quincy traditions such as Stein Club—something many Quincy residents have been hoping for.

Kirshner responded with eagerness and openness.

“I’m willing to listen to the students, and see what I can do,” Kirshner said.

Allison J. Porter ’02, an astronomy and astrophysics concentrator living in Quincy House, had Kirshner as an advisor for her junior paper. Porter raved about Kirshner’s ability to mix fun with academic rigor.

“You can talk to him about anything without being nervous, even astrophysics,” Porter said. “Of my science professors, he has an exceptional ability to reach out and connect with people,” Porter said.

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 also had enthusiastic words about Kirshner’s dynamic personality.

“Kirshner is a tremendously enthusiastic and popular teacher, well loved for his warmth and engagement with his students,” Lewis wrote in an e-mail. “He has the energy and personality for the job, and the House will have to move quickly to keep up with his good humor!”

Outgoing Master Michael Shinagel said he was optimistic about the spirit and excitement that Kirshner will bring to the House.

“We’re delighted that Bob Kirshner has been chosen as the apostolic successor to us as master of Quincy House,” Shinagel said. “We have high hopes for his continuing the best tradition.”

Kirshner has two adult children, a daughter who is a script writer living in Los Angeles, and a son who went to medical school.

The family bull terrier Albert will also be joining Quincy House.

An example of his desire to make the House both an intellectual and social scene, Kirshner spoke of his plan to invite students to the beautiful deck of the Quincy House Masters’ residence for regular star gazing.

“It’s a great place for an observatory, isn’t it?” Kirshner said, starting to list his other ideas for Quincy as he assumes the mastership of the House.

—Staff writer Sarah A. Dolgonos can be reached at

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