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College Picks New Cabot, Eliot, and Mather House Masters

Rakesh Khurana, Douglas A. Melton, and Christie McDonald have been selected to lead the Houses

By Danielle J. Kolin and Naveen N. Srivatsa, Crimson Staff Writers

Three Harvard professors, who represent a wide variety of disciplines across the University, and their spouses will lead Cabot, Eliot, and Mather Houses as House Masters next year, the College announced today.

Harvard Business School Professor Rakesh Khurana and Tobin Project Acting Executive Director Stephanie Khurana will take the helm at Cabot House. Harvard Stem Cell Institute Co-director and Natural Sciences Professor Douglas A. Melton and educational consultant Gail O’Keefe will lead Eliot House. French and Comparative Literature Professor Christie McDonald and McGill University Associate Professor of Medicine Michael D. Rosengarten will be put in charge of Mather House.

“Each of the new masters—Professors Rakesh Khurana, Doug Melton, and Christie McDonald—are leading scholars in their fields," Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds said in a statement. "But more important than their scholarly contributions, they are, alongside their spouses, wonderful, outgoing people who have a passion for working with and mentoring students.”

Within a span of two weeks during the end of 2009, three of the 13 sets of House Masters announced their resignations, citing a variety of reasons ranging from a heavy workload to a general feeling that this academic year would be an appropriate one to have as their last.

Hammonds begins the House Master search process by canvassing her colleagues to find interested professors, according to Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson. Each House convenes House advisory groups involving tutors, students, and staff, and the potential candidates visit the Houses to meet with these groups. These committees provide input on the candidates via surveys, but Hammonds makes the final decisions, Nelson said.

An author of three books and an organizational sociologist by training, Khurana conducts research on corporate leadership and teaches a doctoral seminar on management and corporate governance. Along with his wife Stephanie, a former co-founder and CEO of technology company Surebridge, Khurana will bring his three children—Sonia, Nalini, and Jai, who are 13, 11, and 7-years-old, respectively—to Cabot House.

Melton, one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2007 and in 2009, has garnered acclaim as a leader in field of stem cell research. This year, he co-taught the introductory course in the newly-created Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology concentration. O’Keefe, his wife, works to improve high-risk students’ access to quality education as part of the Education Collaborative for Greater Boston.

McDonald, a world-renowned scholar of 18th century French literature, focuses her research on the relationship between literature and the social sciences and arts. Her husband, a cardiologist, is the associate dean of the Center for Continuing Health Professional Education at McGill.

Rosengarten and McDonald will be replacing current Mather House Masters Sandra F. Naddaff ’75 and Leigh G. Hafrey ’73, who are stepping down after leading Mather for 18 years—the longest tenure of any current Masters. Naddaff is the director of studies in the Literature concentration and also directs the Freshman Seminar Program, while Hafrey is a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management.

Lino Pertile and Anna Bensted are stepping down after ten years as Eliot House Masters. Pertile is a professor of romance languages and literatures who has been widely published in the field of Dante scholarship, and Bensted works as an assistant program director and executive producer at the National Public Radio station in Boston, WBUR.

The Khuranas will assume the roles of Jay M. Harris and Cheryl L. Harris, who will be leaving Cabot after seven years as Masters. Jay was named dean of undergraduate education by Hammonds in the summer of 2008, and he also serves as a professor of Jewish studies and chair of the General Education committee. His wife Cheryl is a school psychologist at Sharon High School.

—Staff writer Naveen N. Srivatsa can be reached at

—Staff writer Danielle J. Kolin can be reached at

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