Cambridge U. Head Denies She's a Candidate for President

Anthropologist Richard says she will not swap one Cambridge for another

University of Cambridge head Alison F. Richard, often mentioned as a top contender for the Harvard presidency, said Friday that she does not view herself as a candidate for the post.

A statement from Richard’s office said that she “remains deeply committed to Cambridge and does not consider herself a candidate for the Presidency of Harvard.”

Born in Kent in southeastern England, and trained as an anthropologist at Cambridge and the University of London, Richard joined Yale’s faculty in 1972 and served as the school’s chief administrative and financial officer from 1994 until the end of 2002.

In 2003, she assumed the vice-chancellorship at Cambridge—the top non-ceremonial position at the university—where she now oversees 31 colleges, 8,500 staff members, and 18,000 students. Her term at Cambridge is set to expire in 2010.

Richard, unlike every president here since 1672, does not have a Harvard degree.

But Richard does have a Crimson tie by blood—her daughter, Elizabeth N. Dewar, graduated from Harvard in 2002.

Former colleagues in New Haven reached last week suggested that after leading two of the world’s premier universities, Richard, who is 58, has the energy and capability to guide a third.

“I would much prefer her to be the next president of Yale than the next president of Harvard,” said William W. Kelly, former chair of Yale’s anthropology department. “It would be deeply disturbing to us if she returned from the other Cambridge to your Cambridge.”

“I sure hope you get a good president, but I sure hope it’s not Alison,” Kelly added.

When asked whether Richard would be a good fit for Harvard’s 28th president, Yale anthropologist John F. Szwed said, “I think she would be terrific. I think she would be something. I think she would in the best tradition and a breath of fresh air.”

Richard’s statement is much more subdued than the forceful denial made by another leading candidate for Harvard’s top job, University of Pennsylvanian President Amy Gutmann ’71.

“I will say it, and I will say it for that last time,” Gutmann told Penn’s trustees last Thursday.

“I am absolutely committed to being Penn’s president, and I am not interested in any other presidency.”

—Staff writer Samuel P. Jacobs can be reached at