Whatever Happened to Neil L. Rudenstine?

Crimson FILE Photo

NEW YORK—Neil L. Rudenstine announced his resignation just a few months after members of the Class of 2004 received their acceptance letters. Their first year at Harvard was his last.

Now, the English poetry scholar and 26th University president sits in a sunny, book-crammed office on the third floor of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation on New York’s Upper East Side.

Nearly three years after leaving his position, the man who led the University’s $2.6-billion capital campaign and paved the way for Harvard’s future in Allston has settled into a new life away from public view.

At Harvard, Rudenstine often steered clear of the spotlight—a habit that has continued since his departure.

In his first interview since he left Harvard in June 2001, Rudenstine says he has not changed much since his days in Mass. Hall.

“I think I still have the same set of fundamental interests. I still get rewards from mostly the same kinds of things,” he says.

Indeed, he still enthusiastically muses about literature, art and higher education. And he still stares wistfully off into space as he speaks, occasionally fidgeting with his socks and shoelaces.

But one thing about Rudenstine is markedly different. After ten jam-packed years of wheeling, dealing and fundraising at Harvard’s helm, Rudenstine has his own time—and he knows exactly how he wants to use it.

“If I actually am going to be involved, I want to be involved. I don’t like just sitting on boards,” Rudenstine explains. “I really want the things I do to be pretty much in the heartland of things that I know something about and I know that I’m committed to.”

Bridging the Digital Divide

As Rudenstine’s last day at Harvard drew near, he says he received numerous invitations to join various boards. But he only agreed to sit on a select few.

Rudenstine, 69, now spends most of his time as the part-time working chair of the board at ARTstor, a non-profit organization created by the Mellon Foundation.

ARTstor aims “to create a large—and indefinitely growing—database of digital images and accompanying scholarly information for use in art history and other humanistic fields of learning, including the related social sciences,” according to the organization’s website.

It is modeled after JSTOR, the online scholarly journal database also started by the Mellon Foundation.

At least three days a week, Rudenstine works closely with the organization’s executive director and other staffers in their New York office, hashing out the details of ARTstor’s development. He also travels “quite a bit” on behalf of ARTstor, visiting art collections around the country.

“Like many half-time jobs it ends up being more than half-time, but that’s out of my own interest,” Rudenstine says.