Alternating between laughter and tears, Evelynn M. Hammonds stood at the front of a crowded faculty room in University Hall Thursday afternoon as former administrative colleagues and fellow faculty members paid tribute to her five-year tenure as Dean of the Harvard College.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith, serving as master of ceremonies, led several dozen faculty members and staff in formally thanking Hammonds for what he characterized as her distinguished service to the College community.
Pointing to Hammonds’s contributions to the House renewal project, the recent expansion of research opportunities for undergraduates, and high rates of student satisfaction during her tenure, Smith said his former University Hall colleague leaves behind a record of achievement as she returns to full-time scholarly work.
Following Smith at the microphone in turn, University President Drew G. Faust, history of science professor Allan M. Brandt, Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris, and a former member of the Board of Overseers reflected on Hammonds’s achievements as dean. Flanked by her partner, Hammonds listened as they named accomplishments ranging from the development of January Term to the beginning of House renewal to the expansion of common social spaces.
Neither Smith, Hammonds, nor any of the afternoon’s speakers made mention of the Government 1310 cheating case or the subsequent email search scandal that marred much of Hammonds’s final year as dean.
News broke last March that administrators had covertly searched the email accounts of resident deans in connection to the Government 1310 case, and as Hammonds’s role in the secret investigation became clearer, some Harvard community members called for her resignation.
On Thursday, dressed in a dark pinstripe suit, Hammonds addressed the crowd from a podium just a few feet from where she last spoke publicly about the searches last April. It was then that she told faculty members that she had authorized an additional round of covert searches of a single resident dean’s email accounts without Smith’s consent, violating FAS policy. Many have speculated that those searches, executed last September, may have cost Hammonds her job, a claim Hammonds refuted in May when Smith announced that she would be stepping down.
On Thursday, she told colleagues that she felt honored to have served as the head of the College for the last five years. In remarks that lasted just a few minutes, she thanked staff, the Harvard University Police Department, and members of the faculty for making her feel a part of the Harvard community during her tenure.
The event was not the first held in Hammonds’s honor since Smith’s announcement in May or since Hammonds officially left University Hall on July 1. College staff and House Masters have honored Hammonds on a number of occasions already, including a BBQ last spring and an evening at the Queen’s Head, Eck said in her remarks.
But Thursday was the first time since Hammonds concluded her run in University Hall that the full faculty had a chance to recognize her work. Over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, professors—including interim Dean of the College Donald H. Pfister—chatted with Hammonds and shared hugs. An extended applause in Hammonds’s honor followed the afternoon’s speeches.
Hammonds, who is on sabbatical for the 2013-2014 school year, is expected to launch a new initiative on the study of race and gender in science and medicine in coming months, to be housed in the recently unveiled Hutchins Center for African and African-American Studies. Hammonds is also expected to resume her teaching duties in the History of Science Department and the African and African-American Studies Department next fall.
—Staff writer Nikita Kansra contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @npfandos.