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A First for Harvard

Drew Gilpin Faust
University Business, Mar 2007

The bio for Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard's new president come July 1, 2007, says that she is an "eminent historian." In mid-February, though, she made history herself by being the first woman in 371 years to be voted president of the Ivy League university.

She also fills a job vacated in March 2006 when Lawrence Summers ended his rocky five-year run at Harvard after facing faculty unrest and causing controversy with remarks made about women in the sciences. Former Harvard President Derek Bok came back as an interim president.

Faust is the founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, an academic unit of Harvard's, and is a scholar of the American Civil War and the American South. She was also on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania for 25 years.

While she brings much higher ed experience to the new job, she also faces skeptics who note that she has never led an institution of Harvard's size. She is praised for building the Radcliffe Institute into an operation with a reported 87 employees and a $17 million annual budget, but that pales in comparison to the university's 24,000 employees and $3 billion budget.

Upon getting the appointment, she wasted no time asserting herself. "I am not the woman president of Harvard," she said. "I am the president of Harvard." She has not wanted to focus on gender, but has to admit that the world is watching.

A native of Virginia, Faust, 59, enjoyed a privileged childhood. "She was raised to be a rich man's wife," a friend told the press. Instead, she rebelled, becoming an advocate for social causes, including the Civil Rights movement. -J.M.A.

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