GSD Dean To Stay on Through Fall

Altshuler will remain at post until permanent replacement is found

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M. AIDAN Kelly

Dean of the Graduate School of Design Alan A. Altshuler, who announced in October that he would step down from his post at the end of June, will stay on for the fall semester until a permanent dean is named.


Dean of the Graduate School of Design (GSD) Alan A. Altshuler, who announced in October that he would step down from his post at the end of June, will stay on for the fall semester, according to an e-mail sent by President-elect Drew G. Faust to the GSD community.

Faust, who has had to fill a number of important administrative positions since being chosen as University president in February, wrote in the e-mail earlier this month that Altshuler “agreed to stay for the fall semester until a new dean is selected and in place.”

Altshuler, who has been dean since 2004, said in a phone interview that when Faust asked him to stay on until December, “it was an easy decision to say ‘yes.’”

“I didn’t want people to be subjected to discontinuity while the search is continuing,” he said. “I have some momentum from the last several years that I have been here and I will continue with that.”

Altshuler said that he will continue to focus on financial aid, establishing a “strong financial position” for the school, encouraging faculty promotions and increasing research opportunities.

“I found a school that was very strong and I’m trying to leave it maybe a little bit stronger,” Altshuler said. “My deanship has not been a period of dramatic change in the school.”

During his three years as dean, Altshuler has drawn controversy and caused clashes with the GSD faculty over his support of former University president Lawrence H. Summers. But this fall, when he announced that he would be stepping down, faculty members praised Altshuler for his accomplishments, which include doubling the number of senior women faculty at GSD.

“Dean Altshuler, while controversial in some of his actions, will leave the school in a very strong academic, administrative, and financial position as a result of his indefatigable work in defense and promotion of GSD interests,” Jorge Silvetti, a professor of architecture, wrote in an e-mail at the time.

While Altshuler remains at the helm of the school for the next six months, Faust, with the help of an advisory group composed of eight faculty members, will continue the search for a new dean. In her e-mail, the president-elect also sought input from other GSD faculty, students and staff.

“The search for the next dean of GSD actively proceeds,” Faust wrote. “We will continue working into the summer to bring the search to a successful conclusion.”

The GSD deanship is challenging to fill because many potential candidates for the post usually work at private practices, which they are reluctant to leave for a full-time position in academic administration.

“There is a large category of potential deans out there who are not willing candidates,” said Altshuler, adding that it is still possible to find “a very large pool of candidates” and that the current search is making “reasonable progress.”

The GSD dean is the fourth dean Faust has had to appoint before even moving into Massachusetts Hall on Sunday. This spring, she named Michael D. Smith to lead the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Barbara J. Grosz to replace her for a year at the head of Radcliffe and Barbara J. McNeil to serve as the acting dean of the Harvard Medical School until a permanent dean is named. Faust must also find a new vice president for alumni affairs and development and plans to appoint an executive vice president.

The announcement also means that Faust, when she takes office on Sunday, will have to work with at least three interim deans and possibly four—a new dean for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has yet to be named to replace Theda Skocpol, who is set to step down on Saturday. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

—Staff writer Claire M. Guehenno can be reached at

The June 29 news article “GSD Dean To Stay on Through Fall” incorrectly stated that Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Theda Skocpol would step down from her post on Sunday. In fact, Skocpol has agreed to stay on as dean until a permanent replacement is named.