Harvard, MA

After Nearly 50 Years in Academia, Former University President Drew Faust Retires From Teaching

The Harvard Crimson

Drew Gilpin Faust, formerly the president of Harvard University, retired from teaching on June 30.Photo byAmy Y. Li
By Rahem D. Hamid, Crimson Staff Writer

July 28, 2023

Former University President Drew Gilpin Faust retired from teaching on June 30, capping a career that has spanned nearly half a century — and vacating one of Harvard’s coveted University Professorships.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain confirmed in an email that Faust retired from teaching last month and is now a research professor. Per the Faculty of Arts and Sciences handbook, a research professorship is a five-year appointment for faculty active in research who are either eligible for or already have emeritus status.

Faust was appointed a University Professor — Harvard’s highest faculty rank — just months after stepping down from Harvard’s top post in 2018.

In an emailed statement, Faust, 75, wrote that she “wanted to retire while I still felt great about my ability to do my job as a teacher.”

“Ted Williams hitting a home run on his last at bat or David Ortiz having such a fabulous last season and then walking away: these were inspirations,” she wrote. “And I had a very wonderful class this spring — really everything you could hope for in a Harvard seminar.”

With Faust’s retirement, Claudine Gay, who assumed office as Harvard’s 30th president earlier this month, will get to name a new Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor.

Swain declined to comment on the process of filling the professorship.

A renowned Civil War historian with six books to her name, Faust received her bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College and her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was then a history professor for 25 years.

She came to Harvard in 2001 as the founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, which was the result of the official merger between Harvard University and Radcliffe College.

In 2007, Faust was elected as the first woman to lead Harvard, serving as president for 11 years until she was succeeded by Lawrence S. Bacow.

During Faust’s tenure, she led Harvard through the Great Recession, oversaw a record-breaking $9.6 billion capital campaign, sanctioned Harvard’s single-gender social clubs, and lobbied fiercely for higher education in Washington.

Reflecting on her presidency, Faust wrote that she was proud of University-wide administration reforms she spearheaded, including the yearslong “One Harvard” initiative that aimed to foster University-wide collaboration and the first reforms to the University’s highest governing body.

Faust also cited “greatly expanded financial aid across the schools and significant increases in representation of marginalized groups both in student populations and in faculty” as among her greatest achievements.

In December 2007, just six months after Faust took office as president, the University announced a massive increase in undergraduate financial aid for middle-class and upper-middle-income families. In the policy, Harvard eliminated loans and removed home equity as a consideration for financial aid amounts.

Seven years later, Faust also helped secure a $150 million donation to Harvard, with at least $125 million for financial aid at Harvard College, from Kenneth C. Griffin ’89.

In her statement, Faust also commented on the Supreme Court’s decision against Harvard that radically curtailed race-conscious admissions. Faust, who was president when the anti-affirmative group Students for Fair Admissions first sued Harvard, later testified in district court in support of the University’s admissions policies.

Calling the decision a “gut punch,” Faust wrote that “affirmative action changed my life, the lives of many many others, and the landscape of higher education and American society over the past half century.”

“It represented a commitment to racial equity and opportunity in a nation that has never been and still is far from colorblind,” she wrote.

While Harvard’s 28th president has retired from teaching at the University, she will continue her research. Faust also has written a memoir, set to be published next month.

She wrote that in her retirement, she will be working on two projects — one of which “grows out of” the History and Literature seminar “American Speeches” she taught for many years — as well as continuing her contributions to The Atlantic.

Faust wrote that she also will be “making whatever contribution I can to combatting the distressing challenges to — and even reversals of — the past half century’s advances in racial and gender equity.”

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at rahem.hamid@thecrimson.com.

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