‘Quiet’ Harvard Leader To Retire

Zeckhauser held a variety of roles during her two decades at the University

Harvard’s Vice President for Administration Sally H. Zeckhauser—whose tenure has spanned four University presidencies—announced her intention yesterday to step down from her position at the end of the academic year.

Over the course of two decades, Zeckhauser guided eight administrative departments that provide basic services ranging from real estate management to facilities and maintenance operations.

University President Drew G. Faust lauded Zeckhauser’s “quiet” leadership in managing a diverse portfolio of behind-the-scenes operations.

“She has been not only a valued colleague but a good friend, and I know she will remain very much a part of the Harvard family even after she steps down at the end of June,” Faust wrote in a letter to the community yesterday.

University officials plan to discuss the organizational structure with members of her administrative departments before coming to a decision about the future of the position, said University spokesman John D. Longbrake.

Longbrake declined to comment on whether these discussions will result in a replacement for Zeckhauser.

During her tenure, the soft-spoken leader has seen her purview expand to include a large-scale renovation of Memorial Hall and the freshman dorms in addition to founding Harvard’s Bridge to Learning and Literacy Program, which helps University employees improve their English language skills.

Zeckhauser’s departure comes as the University finds itself in dire financial straits, potentially posing a challenge to both daily operations and long-term projects, including the much awaited $1 billion renovation of the 12 undergraduate Houses.

Though College administrators have said that discussions on the proposed renovations have not been placed on hold as a result of the economic climate, Zeckhauser said the time frame for these ambitious plans is uncertain.

Additionally, Zeckhauser cited the continued challenge of meeting financial constraints without sacrificing the quality of services offered.

“We need to think about how we can do things differently but at the same level or better,” Zeckhauser said.

In anticipation of a 30 percent drop in endowment value, University administrators are already scaling back on operating expenses and planning budget cuts for the next fiscal year.

Before assuming her current position, Zeckhauser, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, served in several administrative roles at the University since receiving a Master’s degree from what is now the Harvard Kennedy School.

After retiring, Zeckhauser said she plans to pursue personal interests and hobbies, including volunteering at a public service program in the fair-weathered South and spending time with her grandchildren.

Zeckhauser will continue to chair Bryn Mawr’s board of trustees.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at

—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at