Associate Dean Kopstain Leaves Harvard for Vanderbilt

Associate Dean for Finance in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Eric Kopstain—who played a key role in steering FAS through the 2008 financial crisis—will leave Harvard to take on the position of associate vice chancellor for finance at Vanderbilt University, according to an email sent to senior administrators and financial officers Wednesday afternoon.

“My service at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has offered a wonderfully enriching set of experiences where I have been privileged to work alongside an amazing group of talented colleagues and faculty,” Kopstain wrote in an emailed statement.

FAS Dean of Administration and Finance Leslie A. Kirwan, who sent out the email on Wednesday announcing Kopstain’s departure, described Kopstain as a “key partner in the FAS’s fiscal recovery, multi-year planning, House Renewal funding strategy and other financial and operational achievements.”

Kopstain arrived at Harvard in 2005 as budget director and was promoted to associate dean in March 2010. Before coming to Harvard, Kopstain worked in similar administrative roles at Dartmouth and Northwestern.

Kopstain’s tenure at FAS coincided with one of the greatest financial crises ever faced by FAS. In 2008, he and his staff found themselves saddled with a $225 million two-year deficit after the University’s endowment plunged by nearly 30 percent.

At that time, FAS Dean Michael D. Smith instituted hiring and salary freezes—both of which were lifted within a year.

“Under Dean Smith, the FAS has vastly improved its processes for planning and resource allocation,” Kopstain wrote. “I am proud of the small contributions I’ve made to ensuring that the FAS’ financial position is strong and sustainable in the wake of the significant challenges that have been faced.”

Unlike the ongoing searches for a new dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and a faculty director for the Derek C. Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, the search for Kopstain’s successor will be carried out by an external search firm, Opus Search Partners.

“This position has a wide range of important responsibilities, including a $1.1 billion budget, and is a key partner in House Renewal financing, among many other projects,” FAS spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an email. “We have a solid transition team and will take the time we need to find the right person.”

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at