Purcell Leaves IOP for Allston

Institute of Politics director will advise Univ. on Allston expansion

Bill Purcell will resign as the director of the Institute of Politics to work as an advisor on the University’s expansion into Allston, a project marked by uncertainty in a time of fiscal constraints.

Ending a two-year term as director of the IOP, Purcell is stepping down to serve as an advisor to University Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, who directs much of Harvard’s Allston development and its relations with the local community.

Purcell will now devote more time to his role as one of the co-chairs of the Allston Work Team, the group charged with examining the current state of and recommending strategies for Harvard’s expansion into Allston, where Purcell has worked on community betterment projects.

“It allows me to direct attention to where I’m most needed,” said Purcell, a former mayor of Nashville.

In recent months, University administrators have said that they are exploring a wide range of options regarding Harvard’s plans to develop its Allston property holdings.


“We continue to talk to developers, meet with other universities, and meet with other entities and see if we can import those lessons and figure out what, if anything, co-development and co-location might make sense,” Lapp said.

Purcell’s new role under Lapp will be largely similar to the position he holds on the Work Team, whose findings will be critical in determining the future direction of the University’s presence in Allston.

“This is a natural progression of the work that Bill has been doing helping to advise the University,” Lapp said.

As a young man growing up in Philadelphia, Purcell said he saw first hand the effects of a contentious university expansion on the community. In the 1950s, Purcell witnessed the University of Pennsylvania’s ill-fated development in its surrounding neighborhoods.

“It was one of those things that if you were a young man you knew that it seemed that the relationship was a difficult one,” Purcell said.

Recently, the Work Team has been examining how other universities have managed their own expansion projects into neighboring communities, hoping to learn from those developments as the University decides how it will move forward in Allston.

Meanwhile, Purcell leaves behind a positive legacy at the IOP, where former president Mary K.B. Cox ’10 said Purcell will be remembered as someone who expanded career counseling for students interested in public service careers.

This year, the IOP hired its first dedicated career counselor, a resource that has been a boon for students at the IOP, especially at a time when budgets across the University—including the IOP—are shrinking, Cox said.

“He has a real commitment to the students and improving their experience at the IOP and expanding and building the community that is there,” said Yonatan J. Kogan ’12, a student chair of the IOP fellows program.

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