Cech Withdraws from Presidential Search

Thomas R. Cech, the head of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a leading contender in Harvard's presidential search, has withdrawn his name from the race.

"I've withdrawn my name from consideration for the presidency of Harvard," Cech said in a telephone interview with The Crimson this morning.

"Clearly it's one of the great positions in academic leadership in the United States," he said. "But I already have a great job," he went on, noting that his current post allows him to advance science education and biomedical research.

Cech, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, has served as the head of Howard Hughes—the nation's second richest philanthropic organization—for the past seven years. He is also a faculty member at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He said that those two commitments weighed on his decision to withdraw his name.

Cech's surprise decision seems to throw the presidential search into limbo, as an announcement had been expected as early as this week. The Board of Overseers, whose approval is needed to select a president, convenes this weekend for a regularly scheduled meeting. Some had speculated that the search committee—comprised of the six members of the Corporation plus three members of the Board of Overseers—would present a name for the overseers’ approval at that meeting.

As the University seeks to revitalize its science offerings with an expansion into Allston and the creation of interdisciplinary science initiatives, Cech's science training appeared appealing to several search committee members.

Cech's experience at Howard Hughes seemed to make him an attractive candidate—as the institute's president he had overseen the construction of a $500-million world-class center for interdisciplinary bioscience research.

In recent weeks, search committee members had expressed particularly strong enthusiasm about the candidacies of Cech and Radcliffe Institute Dean Drew Gilpin Faust. Provost Steven E. Hyman is expected to remain on the search committee’s list of candidates until the end, but sources familiar with the committee’s activities said his inclusion reflects recognition of his half-decade as the University’s number-two administrator—and does not necessarily indicate serious consideration. Law School Dean Elena Kagan has long been mentioned as a serious contender.

—Check back at throughout the afternoon for updates.

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