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Henderson, Melton Named University Professors

By Rebecca D. Robbins, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca M. Henderson and stem cell researcher Douglas A. Melton—who teaches at the College and Harvard Medical School—were appointed University Professors Tuesday, joining a cadre of 22 other faculty members who hold the University’s most prestigious professorship.

The position, which was created in 1935 by the President and Fellows, seeks to recognize exemplary faculty members who have pushed the boundaries of their discipline.

Henderson becomes the John and Natty McArthur University Professor—created in honor of the former HBS dean and his wife—while Melton becomes the Xander University Professor.

“I’m honored beyond words,” Henderson said. “I’m completely humbled when I look at the other members of the group I am in.”

In a statement, President Drew G. Faust called Henderson—who studies the way organizations respond to technological shifts in the environmental arena—“a leading voice on the environmental challenges of our time.”

Along with HBS Professor Forest L. Reinhardt, Henderson co-directs the “Business and the Environment” initiative, which seeks to bring together faculty from across the University to solve environment problems facing businesses.

Although he described Henderson as “one of the leading strategy scholars in the world,” Reinhardt placed particular emphasis on his colleague’s abilities as a teacher.

Henderson “combines traditional hard analytic understanding of the way the world works ... with a new set of important concerns” relating to the environment, Reinhardt said.

Henderson, who has also taught at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, came to HBS in 2009.

Like Henderson, Melton is both a prolific scholar and a lauded teacher.

Although he began his career studying developmental frog biology, Melton shifted his research focus to stem cell biology when two of his children were diagnosed with diabetes.

Described by Faust as “a scientist who has played a seminal role in the exponential growth of the new field of stem cell science,” Melton has made significant breakthroughs in stem cell research.

Melton, who also serves as Co-Chair of the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, has worked to found and expand the new Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology concentration, which SCRB Lecturer William J. Anderson said “owes its success to Dr. Melton’s tremendous output.”

Melton, who serves as Co-Housemaster of Eliot House with his wife, Gail, is also a prolific teacher, teaching or co-teaching five courses in the 2011-2012 academic year.

His teaching style and willingness to accept undergraduates in his lab have earned rave reviews from students.

Melton “is always questioning everything behind the process of what he is teaching,” said Taylor A. Docter ’13, who took SCRB 10: “Human Developmental and Regerative Biology” with Melton last fall before joining Melton’s lab in the spring.

Docter had been planning to study abroad this past summer in Cambridge, United Kingdom, but she was so impressed by Melton’s lab that she abandoned her plans to go overseas in favor of staying in Cambridge, MA to work for her professor.

For his part, Melton said he was “thrilled and humbled” by Harvard’s decision to appoint him to the professorship.

“I hope I can live up to the University’s expectations,” he said.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at

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