Bacow Wastes No Time Making His Mark on Harvard

Bacow at Convocation
President Lawrence S. Bacow speaks at the 2018 Freshman Convocation.

July and August can be sleepy and stifling in Cambridge — but the hot weather didn't deter University President Lawrence S. Bacow from a frenzied round of activity in his first two months as Harvard's 29th top leader.

Even before he officially assumed the presidency in July, Bacow got busy. Over the summer, he held scores of meetings with Harvard affiliates across campus, quickly filled top administrative posts, and wasted no time in fulfilling his earlier promise to serve as an advocate for higher education on the national stage, making at least one trip to Capitol Hill.

Immediately tasked with finding a successor for previous Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith, Bacow began meeting with faculty and staff across FAS to find a new leader before he took office. Bacow appointed Claudine Gay, who became the first African-American and first woman to lead the school, in July. 

Bacow’s selection of Gay followed the historic appointments of two other female, African-American deans: Tomiko Brown-Nagin at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Bridget T. Long at the Graduate School of Education. 


Bacow also announced Harvard Business School’s Bharat N. Anand ’88 as the University’s next vice provost for advances in learning last month. Though the brand-new president has yet to find a replacement for Tamara E. Rogers, vice president of alumni affairs and development, he is “spending lots of time” on the search, according to University spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson.

In addition to finding and appointing new administrators, Bacow spent a “fair amount of time” in the past two months discussing Harvard's plans for its Allston campus with Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp and workshopping issues of academic planning with University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, Jackson said.

Somewhere in there, Bacow found time to meet with the deans of each of the University’s schools. And he held several planning retreats this summer, one with his leadership team and another with the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body, on which Bacow served prior to his presidency. 

In late July, Bacow headed to the nation’s capital, where he spoke to students performing public service internships at a Harvard Kennedy School event. There, Bacow reaffirmed his commitment to championing higher education, telling attendees that the values of colleges and universities have “enabled the American dream for so many of us” and that is it “important that we not let that dream die.”

Bacow also continued Faust’s tradition of meeting with legislators in Washington during her trips to D.C. He met with members of the Massachusetts delegation, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck E. Schumer ’71 (D-NY), U.S. Senator Mike D. Crapo (R-ID), and U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

Near summer’s end in August, Bacow stepped further into the political realm when he signed a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler that opposed a draft rule that would require the federal government to make all data used to support scientific studies that inform its regulations available to the public. Bacow and his fellow signatories argued that the new rule would “cripple” scientific studies because many require the use of confidential patient data.

Bacow will officially be inaugurated Harvard’s president on Oct. 5. 

Correction: Sept. 10, 2018

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that President Lawrence S. Bacow discussed Harvard's plans for its Allston campus with University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76. In fact, Bacow discussed Allston planning with Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp. 

Correction: Sept. 10, 2018

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Tamara E. Rogers. It has been updated.

Correction: Sept. 10, 2018

 A previous version of this article misstated the title of EPA Acting Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler. It has been updated.

—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.


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