Design Dean To Step Down

Head of Design School will take leave at end of June

The Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) announced yesterday that he will step down at the end of June.

Peter G. Rowe, who has headed the GSD for the past 12 years, will take a year of sabbatical and then return to teaching at Harvard, where he has served on the faculty since 1985.

When University President Lawrence H. Summers names Rowe’s successor, he will have appointed six—more than half—of the University’s ten deans in a little under three years in office. This includes a not-yet-named successor for Kennedy School Dean Joseph S. Nye, who announced in September that he will step down at the end of the school year.

Rowe, who could not be reached for comment last night, said in a press release that he is proud of his tenure at GSD.

“This has been an extraordinary decade in the life of the design disciplines; Harvard’s been a terrific vantage point from which to observe, study and reflect on those momentous changes,” Rowe said.


Niall G. Kirkwood, chair of GSD’s department of landscape architecture, said the announcement did not come as a huge surprise.

“After 12 years, it seemed appropriate that he would want to search out new areas of academic interest and new areas of research, which he probably will do,” Kirkwood said. “My understanding is that he’s doing it of his own volition. I think he’s been talking about it for some time.”

Originally from Australia, Rowe earned a reputation as an expert in urban planning in Asia and has published 10 books on related design issues.

Before coming to Harvard, he served as director of Rice University’s School of Architecture.

Summers praised Rowe yesterday for his accomplishments.

“Peter has left an indelible mark on one of the world’s preeminent design schools, recruiting extraordinary scholars and practitioners, focusing on significant new areas of research and improving its facilities,” Summers said in a press release.

Kirkwood described Rowe as an “internationalist.”

“He has focused on bringing the school into a broader global environment, with an international focus in design studios and executive education,” Kirkwood said.

According to yesterday’s press release, the size of the GSD faculty has grown by 40 percent and the school has raised more than $38 million since the beginning of Rowe’s deanship.

Rowe continued to teach courses and managed to publish seven books during his time as dean.

—Staff writer Jenifer L. Steinhardt can be reached at

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