Monday, February 12, 2007

A historic first for Harvard

Harvard University on Sunday nominated historian Drew Gilpin Faust as its first female president, creating a milestone in gender equality and ending Lawrence Summers short tenure which was dogged by controversial remarks he made about women.

Harvard University is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning still operating in the United States. It is one of the eight members of the Ivy League.

The seven-member Harvard Corporation elected Faust, a noted scholar of the American South and dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, as the university's 28th president. The board of overseers recommended her for the post.

Faust, 59, recognized the significance of her appointment.

"I hope my appointment can be one symbol of an opportunity that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago," she said at a news conference.

Some professors have quietly groused that — despite the growing centrality of scientific research to Harvard's budget — the 371-year-old university is appointing a fifth consecutive president who is not a scientist.

No scientist has had the top job since James Bryant Conant retired in 1953; its last four have come the fields of classics, law, literature and economics.

In another break with Harvard tradition, Faust was never a Harvard student. She earned her undergraduate degree from Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia and her doctorate from University of Pennsylvania, where she taught for 25 years.

Faust pivots from managing Radcliffe, a think-tank with 87 employees and a $17 million budget, to presiding over Harvard's 11 schools and colleges, 24,000 employees and a budget of $3 billion.

Her major challenges include uniting nine powerful, highly decentralized faculties, steering the biggest undergraduate curriculum changes in three decades and presiding over an ambitious multi-billion dollar campus expansion, according to students and faculty familiar with Harvard's administration.

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